Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Creasing to cratering: Voltage breaks down plastic

A Duke University team has seen for the first time how soft polymers, such as wire insulation, can break down under exposure to electrical current.

Researchers have known for decades that polymers, such those insulating wires, may break down due to deformation of the polymers. But the process had never been seen.

In a series of experiments, Duke University engineers have documented at the microscopic level how plastic deforms to breakdown as it is subjected to ever-increasing electric voltage. Polymers can be found almost everywhere, most commonly as an insulator for electrical wires, cables and capacitors.

The findings by the Duke engineers could help in developing new materials to improve the durability and efficiency of any polymer that must come into contact with electrical currents, as well as in the emerging field of energy harvesting.

"We have long known that these polymers will eventually break down, or fail, when subjected to an increasing electrical voltage," said Xuanhe Zhao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. He is the senior scientist in the series of experiments performed by a graduate student Qiming Wang and published online in the Physical Review Letters. "Now we can actually watch the process as it happens in real time."

The innovation the Duke team developed was attaching the soft polymer to another rigid polymer layer, or protective substrate, which enabled observation of the deformation process without incurring the breakdown. They then subjected this polymer-substrate unit to various electrical voltages and observed the effects under a microscope.

"As bread dough rises in a bowl, the top surface of the dough may fold in upon itself to form creases due to compressive stresses developing in the dough," Zhao said, "Surprisingly, this phenomenon may be related to failures of electrical polymers that are widely used in energy-related applications."

"When the voltage reached a critical point, the compressive stress induced a pattern of creases, or folds, on the polymer," Zhao. "If the voltage is increased further, the creases evolved into craters or divots in the polymer as the electrical stress pulls the creases open. Polymers usually break down electrically immediately after the creasing, which can cause failures of insulating cables and organic capacitors."

The substrate the researchers developed for the experiments not only allowed for the visualization of the creasing-to-cratering phenomenon, it could also be the foundation of a new approach to improving the ability of wires to carry electricity.

The research was supported by startup funds provided by Pratt.

Richard Merritt | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

nachricht Scientists discover particles similar to Majorana fermions
25.10.2016 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>