Most people in the insulator industry would have to admit that progress in insulator design over the past 100 years could hardly be termed ‘revolutionary’.
Yes, it’s true that porcelain and toughened glass have gone through several successive generations of improvements in both mechanical performance and shed design – improvements that have made them even more durable and reliable. And, yes, it’s also true that the latest generation of polymeric insulating materials has allowed substantial progress to be made in such areas as designing better compact lines as well as in finding solutions to persistent past insulator problems.
Yet, the simple fact is that there is still a basically linear relationship between voltage and insulation length. For example, if 110 kV demands a 1 m long insulator, this grows to 2 m for 220 kV and to about 4.5 to 5 m in the case of 500 kV.
The result is that as the world moves more and more to higher transmission voltages, insulators are becoming longer and longer – up to 12 meters (nearly 40 feet) in the case of some current UHV line designs. With this length come all sorts of challenges relating to manufacturing, testing and handling such cumbersome units.
So, the question that begs to be asked is: “Must this be the case?”
At least one prominent researcher in the field believes that the answer to this question is ‘no’. Professor Zhang Desai from Wuhan University in Central China challenges people in the insulator industry to become more progressive and better ‘lateral thinkers’. Among the key individuals who helped shape Chinese composite insulator technology over the past 20 years, Zhang sees it’s time to look beyond basic preconceived design notions of the past. He even looks for guidance to Chinese culture in the form of Taoist ‘yin and yang’ principles, where ‘yin’ is insulation and ‘yang’ is conduction and where the two must be allowed to coexist in order to achieve maximum harmony.
INMR introduces readers to this interesting personality and listens to what he has to say.
The first impression when meeting Professor Zhang Desai is that he does not look like a revolutionary. Quite the contrary.
He looks just like the archetypal Professor in power engineering he has been now for many years at Wuhan University in Hubei Province. But closer inspection reveals intense eyes and a determined look, which together suggest that Zhang is a man on a crusade. And this is indeed the case. On the verge of retiring from teaching and launching a new career as an inventor, Zhang is now challenging the insulator industry to follow his lead in breaking down past rigid approaches in order to achieve more progressive insulator design.