Smart Silicones Are the Goal
The scientists now want to transform the highly insulating compound into a smart silicone gel. This entails incorporating millions of minuscule particles of metal-oxide mixtures into the highly pure material. The particles, such as so-called microvaristors, act as nanoresistors within the gel, where their conductivity varies with localized field strength. Enriched in this way, the POWERSIL® gel has special properties in high-voltage applications. At low field strengths, it continues to be highly insulating. At high field strengths, it is conductive. There are numerous possible applications. “With the smart gel, defects or irregular surfaces in electrical conductors would cause fewer problems in the future,” explains Claudi. High field strengths often occur in these areas. They trigger discharges and, at worst, can cause a breakdown – possibly with dramatic consequences.
The gel displaces the electric field at precisely these areas through increased localized conductivity. “This would allow many devices to have more compact designs. Connecting parts, for instance, still need a lot of space to accommodate the insulation material,” says Claudi. There is plenty of scope for further research, too. For example, what is the influence of the particle size? Can silicone gel also be modified with other materials? How reliable are the gels after ten or more years of use?
Ideas at the Ready
The application areas for silicone gels are therefore expansive. Prof. Claudi has had ideas for the next step in their development for some time now – after all, he has more than ten years of experience in insulation and electrics to draw on. His multicopters are no leisure pursuit either, but intended for flying over and monitoring high-voltage cables.