New insulation material for efficient electricity transport

Enabling more efficient electricity distribution.


To optimize the performance of high-voltage direct-current cables for efficient electricity transport, scientists from the Chalmers University of Technology have introduced a new insulation material. This new insulation material is three times less conductive, hence improving such cables’ properties and performance.

For better electricity transmission and distribution over long distances, high-voltage direct-current cables are used. These cables have a very significant role in electric power transmission. The most challenging task is to optimize their performance.

Efficient electrical transmission is vital when transforming to a world powered by renewable energy. High voltage direct current cables, or HVDC cables, are the most efficient means of transporting electricity over long distances.

Christian Müller, leader of the research and Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the Chalmers University of Technology, said, “For us to handle the rapidly increasing global demand for electricity, efficient and safe HVDC cables are an essential component. The supply of renewable energy can fluctuate, so being able to transport electricity through long-distance networks is a necessity for ensuring a steady and reliable distribution.”

Scientists used polyethylene as the base of this new insulation material. They then added tiny amounts of the conjugated polymer known as poly(3-hexylthiophene) or P3HT to lower the electrical conductivity by up to three times.

Christian Müller said, “In materials science, we strive to use additives in as small quantities as possible, to increase the potential for them to be used in industry and for better recycling potential. The fact that only a very small amount of this additive is required to achieve the effect is a big advantage.”

This is the first time that P3HT has been used and tested as an additive to modify the properties of a commodity plastic. Hence, scientists believe that the discovery could lead to numerous new applications and directions for research.

Christian Müller said, “We hope that this study can open up a new field of research, inspiring other researchers to look into designing and optimizing plastics with advanced electrical properties for energy transport and storage applications.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Amir Masoud Pourrahimi et al. Repurposing Poly(3-hexylthiophene) as a Conductivity-Reducing Additive for Polyethylene-Based High-Voltage Insulation. DOI: 10.1002/adma.202100714


See stories of the future in your inbox each morning.