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Novel sensors and techniques for high voltage insulator inspections

This research project is in competition for funding with one or more projects available across the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). Usually the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding. Find out more information about the DTP and how to apply.

Start date: 1 October 2019

This project will investigate a wide range of non-contact probes and test techniques for the identification of problem on the system (e.g. pollution on insulator surface, surface degradation and hydrophobicity reduction, localized discharges).

The research will have to investigate a wide range of electromagnetic spectrum from infra-red, microwave and radio frequency ranges in order to evaluate their optimal capability to detect insulator problem earlier as possible. Multi-physic simulations and high voltage experiments will be performed to verify the capability of the probe/technique selected in High Voltage laboratory on artificially polluted and aged insulators.


Transmission system operators rely on periodic inspection and maintenance of high voltage transmission lines to guarantee a high reliability of their networks. In particular, a key element of the overhead lines, the insulators have to be monitored to assure their mechanical and electrical performances are adequate for their whole life expectancy (40years). They are inspected using visual high definition, corona and infrared cameras installed on helicopters.

The maintenance is performed by special crew who has to climb the towers and perform maintenance operations at height and if double circuits are present, very often one of the circuit is live, and the one under maintenance is earthed. Any new inspection technique may improve the rate of detecting problems on the system.

The adoption of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system or robotic devices to access the overhead line and the insulators offers the possibility to perform a closer inspection than using helicopters and it can reduce the number of operations at height and in difficult environment by the tower crew.

The lower distance between the device and the system, offers the adoption of new type of sensors to detect possible problems earlier than currently adopted methods, in particular pollution on the insulator surface and its degradation.

Project aims and methods

Your initial research plan and the development needs analysis will help to identify the expertise already developed in previous experiences by the students and identify the areas that need to be more developed.

After this initial period, you will develop mathematical modelling and laboratory experiments in the high-voltage and high-frequency laboratories to identify the suitable sensors for this research. Regularly weekly meeting will be scheduled and a brief agenda with some notes of the work performed will be circulated to the supervisors in advance.

You will benefit from the wider availability of the supervisor for regular meetings and for any issues on high voltage aspects. The tracking and planning of various research activities will take advantage of cloud based software (One Note and MsTeam).

As a PhD candidate, you will investigate several measurement techniques based on visual, infra-red, ultraviolet, microwave and radiofrequency signals. Yo will extend your knowledge on various physical properties and models associate on high voltage insulation and high frequency signals in order to select the most appropriate sensors for this investigation. For instance, the identification of the presence and its quantification of a wet polluted layer on the insulator surface required a non-contact probe.

This knowledge will be then be transposed in developing multi-physics simulation tools learning current leading software as Comsol and Altair HyperWorks. The simulation tools are very high demanding on computational time, therefore you will learn how to take advantage of the Advanced Research Computing at Cardiff (ARCCA), in particular the High-Performance Computing (HPC) cluster, Hawk. You will design new laboratory test methods, gaining knowledge on signal acquisition and post processing analysis tools. You will develop Matlab (post processing) and Labwiev (acquisition) codes.

The selection and optimisation of the suitable sensors, with the creation of comparative and absolute index to compare them, will help the candidate to develop their critical thinking and creativity.


Maurizio Albano

Dr Maurizio Albano

Research Fellow

+44 (0)29 2087 0672
Adrian Porch

Yr Athro Adrian Porch


+44 (0)29 2087 5954

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