Electrical tree inhibition by SiO2/XLPE nanocomposites: insights from first-principles calculations

  • Xiaonan Zheng
  • Yang LiuEmail author
  • Ya Wang
Original Paper


It has been extensively observed in experiments that nanoparticle additives can efficiently inhibit the electrical tree growth of the cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) matrix of power cables. Inspired by this, the first-principles calculations employing the density functional theory (DFT) method were performed in this study to investigate the significant role of SiO2 nanosized fillers as a voltage stabilizer for power cable insulation. Several different types of α-SiO2 fillers, including hydroxylated, reconstructed, doped or oxygen vacancy surface structures, were constructed to model the interfacial interaction for SiO2/XLPE nanocomposites. It is found that the SiO2 additives can restrict the movement of the polyethylene chain through van der Waals physical interaction. More importantly, based on the Bader charge analysis we reveal that SiO2 could effectively capture hot electrons to suppress space charge accumulation in XLPE. However, some particular modified-surface SiO2, such as incompletely hydroxylated, B-doped, and oxygen vacancy defect on the top layer, could induce the H migration reaction and consequent electrical tree growth of the XLPE chain. In contrast, the SiO2 particles that have N-doped or oxygen vacancy on the lower layer with completely hydroxylated surfaces, as well as the reconstructed surface, are predicted to be favorable additives because of their quite strong physical interaction and very weak chemical activity with XLPE. The present study is useful to understand the mechanism of the nanosized voltage stabilizer and also provide important information for further experimental investigation.


Electrical tree inhibition SiO2 Cross-linked polyethylene Density functional theory Interfacial interaction 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 21203041), Natural Science Foundation of Heilongjiang province in China (Grant No. B2016004), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities in China (Grant No. HIT. NSRIF. 2017033), and the open project of Key Laboratory of Engineering Dielectrics and Its Application (Harbin University of Science and Technology), Ministry of Education, (Grand No. KF20151105).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest to declare.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 3145 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MIIT Key Laboratory of Critical Materials Technology for New Energy Conversion and Storage, School of Chemistry and Chemical EngineeringHarbin Institute of TechnologyHarbinPeople’s Republic of China

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