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Proceedings of the 2015 IEEE Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena—(CEIDP 2015)

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Pre-breakdown arcing is proposed as a key indicator of DC breakdown properties of polymeric dielectric materials. Voltage step-up tests were performed for films of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) at ramp rates significantly lower than is common in most studies, allowing for the observation of both breakdown and transient pre-breakdown current spikes. The distributions of the breakdowns versus applied field were compared with the more frequent pre-breakdown arcs. A strong correlation was observed for LDPE between the distribution of breakdowns in step-up tests and the distribution of pre-breakdown arcing. Pre-breakdown arcing distributions are much easier to obtain than breakdown distributions and may be an efficient indicator of the minimum field at which breakdown can occur, leading to accelerated test methods. The possible physical origins underlying pre-arcing and its relation to breakdown distributions are discussed.