J.R. Dennison

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Determining the electrical properties of highly insulating materials can be a challenging task. These materials are designed to greatly resist the flow of electrical current. This makes them useful for various applications including terrestrial transmission lines, spacecraft charging, and capacitor-driven charge storage devices. Every year over 370 billion kWhr are lost during transportation along power lines in the US. That is roughly $36B which is thrown away each year due to inefficiency in our power transmission network (1). Due to the fact that satellites are isolated from ground, charging caused by the plasma environment found at typical orbital radii (2) is of concern to the designers of modern spacecraft (3).

In an effort to measure extremely low currents and low conductivity, the Utah State University Materials Physics Group has designed a Constant Voltage Chamber (CVC) capable of measuring conductivity with a low degree of uncertainty. Over the last nine years, many changes have been made to improve the accuracy and precision of measurements made with the CVC, now allowing currents as low as hundreds of atto-amps to be measured (3, 4, 5,6). Through the use of a variety of data analysis programs, numerous studies of the conductivity, current, and temperature have been done with detailed error analysis. Statistical analysis has been performed for the data collected and the instrumentation error for the system has been determined (7). These data have allowed for analysis of the different aspects of current, and allowed for better measurements to be made. Using these measurements we have been able to create a model for the rate of change for the different aspects of current involved with a highly resistive material.

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