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Better Insulators for Electrical Wires, Cables, and Capacitors
Duke University scientists have observed how droplets within solids deform and burst under high electric voltages, which explains a major reason why materials such as insulation for electrical power lines eventually fail and cause blackouts. As the voltage increases, water droplets, or air bubbles, within polymers slowly change from their spherical shape to a more tubular shape, causing extremely large deformation within the material. Over time, this can lead to cracking and failure of the polymer. Polymers are commonly an insulator for electrical wires, cables, and capacitors. Droplets or bubbles can be trapped in these polymers as defects during fabrication. This observation will help scientists develop better insulation materials, and should help in the development of such applications as new capacitors for power grids or electric vehicles and muscle-like transducers for soft robots and energy harvesting.
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