A Collaborative National Center for Fusion & Plasma Research

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University

Professor David Staack      

Dr. Yevgeny Raitses collaborates with Professor David Staack of TAMU Mechanical Engineering Department on discharges in liquids. This new research topic is relevant to energy, environmental and medical applications and the research has attracted significant attention from industry and government agencies.  Professor Staack's research is focused mainly on plasma chemistry and application aspects of discharges in liquids. Dr. Raitses assistance has helped Prof. Staack advance the understanding of the plasma science associated with these discharges.  OSUR supported travel for Prof. Staack and his graduate student, Grant Gaalema, to PPPL and provided a high frame rate Phantom V7.3 camera for high-speed imaging and characterization of water bubble dynamics and electrical breakdown in water-oil mixtures.

System Description and Experiments

The system of interest is depicted in Fig. 1, which shows multiple discharges between an array of water droplets suspended in insulating oil between a high voltage and a grounded electrode. The mineral oil used is clear and water droplets are dyed blue for visualization. The upper electrode is powered at about 15 kV DC, and the lower electrode is grounded. Current can be as much as 1 mA during a discharge, but is nominally less than 10 uA. Inter-electrode spacing is about 3 cm. Water with conductivity similar to tap water was used, acts as the charge carrier, and as a deformable conductor bridging the gap between the electrodes. Gravity acts downwards and without an applied electric field the water droplets fall to the bottom. With an applied field electric forces pull the charged water droplets up and down (depending on their charge) and bounce between the electrodes. With sufficiently high electric field the water droplets self-align between the electrodes with small oil gaps between them. Electric fields are sufficiently high between the water droplets to cause electrical breakdown of the oil.

The purpose of the experiments at PPPL were to capture with high temporal and spatial resolution the dynamics of the bubbles and discharges fast frame rate camera (Fig. 1). Specifically, they sought to categorize observable behaviors such as the breakdown sequence of events and provide quantitative information on bubble motion, discharge duration and discharge dynamics. Bubble position as a function of time, applied electric field, along with bubble size can be used for estimates of electric forces and charging of the bubbles. The location and shape of bubbles can be used to estimate the breakdown field strength of the oil.

A fascinating video was captured of the fluctuations of the plasma between the water beads and is acessible at YouTube.  Video



Fig 1: Photograph of the plasma discharge between water beads.

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