An investigation of the potential of ethylene vinyl acetate/polyethylene blends for use in recyclable high voltage cable insulation systems
Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) co-polymers can potentially provide novel materials for inclusion into extruded high voltage cable systems, providing a degree of electrical conductivity whilst avoiding the dispersion problems associated with conventional particulate fillers or conducting polymers. Although a degree of conductivity can decrease the electrical breakdown performance, it can help to suppress the development of space charge and increase the tree initiation voltage leading to enhanced dielectric properties. In addition, novel two phase morphologies can be formulated leading to the ability to control key thermal and mechanical properties and the ability to tailor these to suit the application. In addition, one of the problems with conventional cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) is that it cannot easily be recycled; therefore, in this time of increasing environmental awareness, it is prudent to begin investigations into alternative recyclable materials to replace XLPE in extruded cables for the medium to long term. The current article focuses on the crystallisation behaviour, morphology, mechanical and dielectric properties of a range of polymeric insulation systems based on an EVA co-polymer together with a high density polyethylene (HDPE) component. The morphology was controlled by choosing co-polymers containing different vinyl acetate contents together with appropriate crystallisation routes. The relationships between the morphology and the mechanical and dielectric properties were explored. Blends containing a low vinyl acetate content co-polymer combined with HDPE have significant potential to replace XLPE in cable systems and have the advantage of being easily recycled at the end of their service life.
The GPC analysis on all the materials was kindly carried out by Smithers Rapra using their Polymer Laboratories GPC220. The work is funded through the EPSRC Supergen V, UK Energy Infrastructure (AMPerES) grant in collaboration with UK electricity network operators working under Ofgem’s Innovation Funding Incentive scheme; full details can be found on http://www.supergen-amperes.org.
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