Whenever two pieces of metal at different voltages are brought near each other, as when an appliance is plugged into a live socket, there is a chance there will be an arc between them.
Even in a vacuum, voltages can literally tear metal apart. Current research is using molecular dynamics to show what happens at the atomic level when material is damaged by arcing in vacuum. Credit: J. Norem, Z. Insepov, Th. Proslier, D. Huang, S. Mahalingam, and S. Veitzer
Most of the arcs people see are a breakdown of the gas between the metal surfaces, but this type of breakdown can also occur in a vacuum. This vacuum breakdown, which until recently has not been well understood, has implications for applications from particle accelerators to fusion reactors.
As part of an effort to understand the maximum accelerating field in particle accelerators, scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have been modeling the processes involved in vacuum breakdown. Now, a new model of this phenomenon is beginning to reveal what is happening in these arcs, and scientists are studying a number of new phenomena associated with them.
In this new model, the breakdown arc is triggered by the electric field in the vacuum gap literally tearing the metal apart. (The same force that causes "static cling" can be very powerful for high electric fields, particularly at tiny corners, and in cracks where the fields are intensified by the local geometry of the surface.) After the metal is torn apart, the fragments should become ionized and form microscopic plasmas that are very dense and cold (for a plasma). Because of the high densities in these plasmas, the surface fields inside the arc quickly become even stronger than they were at breakdown. The arc becomes very damaging to the metal surface over a comparatively large area, eventually leaving a pit that should be visible to the naked eye.
While this model seems to be internally consistent, researchers want to use it to produce predictions that can be verified experimentally. Current research is using molecular dynamics to show what happens at the atomic level when the material is torn apart, plasma modeling codes to show how the plasma initially forms and what its properties are, and electrohydrodynamics to show how the surface of the arc pit is affected. While current results seem generally consistent with existing experimental measurements, more precise tests are being developed.
In principle, a better understanding of the precise causes of electrical breakdown should suggest solutions that are relevant to fusion reactors and space communications, among other things.
Saralyn Stewart | EurekAlert!
A tale of two pulsars' tails: Plumes offer geometry lessons to astronomers
18.01.2017 | Penn State
Studying fundamental particles in materials
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2017 | Life Sciences