Journal article Open Access

Partial Discharges in Electrical Machines for the More Electric Aircraft—Part I: A Comprehensive Modeling Tool for the Characterization of Electric Drives Based on Fast Switching Semiconductors

Davide Barater; Stefano Nuzzo; Giovanni Franceschini; Marco Pastura; Fabio Immovilli; Andrea Toscani; Alberto Rumi; Andrea Cavallini

The arrival on the market of new power devices based on wide bandgap semiconductors has raised a relevant interest due to their superior properties compared to conventional technologies. On the other hand, these devices are inherently characterized by high rates of voltage changes over time, which may result in reliability challenges in electric drives adopting them. In fact, dangerous voltage overshoots at the motor terminals and uneven voltage distributions within the machine windings may occur. These phenomena can trigger a high insulation stress and partial discharges and, as a consequence, they may concur to the premature failure of the dielectric materials. This paper proposes a flexible and comprehensive modelling approach for the accurate analysis and estimation of both voltage overshoots and voltage distributions in a typical converter-cable-motor system intended for more electric aircraft applications. The modelling results are validated against experimental measurements carried out on a physical prototype comprising a wide bandgap-based converter, a connecting cable and an electrical machine stator. The findings are then used in the companion papers (part II and part III) to investigate the dependence of partial discharge phenomena on these voltage waveforms, highlight reliability challenges in modern ±270 V DC bus voltage drives for the more electric aircraft and discuss solutions.

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