2019-2020 / ELEN0446-1

Physics of electrical insulating materials


15h Th, 15h Labo.

Number of credits

 Master of Science (MSc) in Engineering Physics3 crédits 


Philippe Vanderbemden

Language(s) of instruction

English language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

Fundamental mechanisms in dielectrics and physical processes of polarisation. Electronic vs. ionic conduction. Physical properties of solid insulators: interfacial polarisation, deviations from Ohm's law, intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms of dielectric breakdown. Physical properties of insulating gases and introduction to discharge regimes. Townsend coefficients and Paschen law. Main concepts used in static electricity. Physical phenomena involved in partial discharges. Solid insulators used in electrical engineering applications. Experimental methods for characterization of electrical properties of insulators. Identification of the main sources of errors. Metrologic methods for characterization of partial discharges.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

At the end of the course, students will be able to:
* demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the main electrical properties of solid insulators and explain their dependence with applied voltage and frequency;
* understand how fundamental theories can be applied to the analysis of their physical properties; * understand the fundamental mechanisms leading to dielectric breakdown and how they can be probed experimentally;
* understand the important concepts involved in static electricity;
* understand how extrinsic effects (electrodes, geometry, parasitic inductances and capacitances) can affect the results of electrical measurement on insulators;
* demonstrate practical skills as well as the ability to carry out successful measurements of low-level currents;
* show what are important electrical properties of insulators in high voltage engineering applications.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

A general physics course + ELEN0004 Semiconductor devices

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

Practical courses involve laboratory experiments

Mode of delivery (face-to-face ; distance-learning)


Recommended or required readings

To be announced at the first lecture

Assessment methods and criteria

Theoretical and laboratory part : written exam (January session) - weight 85% Written laboratory reports - weight 15% Deadline for the laboratory reports: the day of the written January exam.

Work placement(s)

Organizational remarks

Course organiszed during the 1st quadrimester.
Students who have not attended the laboratory sessions are not eligible for the exam; this rule applies both for 1st sitting (January) and for 2nd sitting (August - September).


Philippe Vanderbemden Tel : 04 366 26 70 Philippe.Vanderbemden@ulg.ac.be