Partial discharge characteristics within motor insulatioi exposed to multi-level PWM waveforms
Journal article, 2018

The frequent use of variable speed drives fed by pulse width modulated (PWM) inverters allow for a more efficient utilization of electric energy. The drawback is however that the stress imposed on motor winding insulation increases and partial discharges (PDs) may appear under such conditions, being considered the major contributor to the reduction of the insulation life time. This paper presents what influence the choice of PWM level and rise time has on the PD characteristics for two different motor insulations as well as introducing suitable high voltage generation test-set ups for these kinds of measurements. The two different test objects were twisted pair and a pig tail motor insulation test objects, the latter aimed for higher voltage levels. These test objects were fed from either two-, three-, four- or five level inverters of similar type, as often used in actual applications. Additionally a six level inverter was used for verification purposes. The twisted pair test objects were insulated by a polyamide-imide enamel, whereas the motor pig tail insulation objects were mica-epoxy based. To compare the performances, measurements of the PD characteristics are reported and observations concentrate on the importance of the voltage rise time, on the size of the voltage step in relation to the extinction voltages (PDEV). Specifically, the total number of PDs and their amplitude per cycle is obtained. The experimental results show that the total summed PD magnitude (exposure) drops considerably when applying the three- or higher level inverters. However the maximum PD magnitude is less dependent, which indicates that a change to a high level inverter alone may still not be sufficient condition for increasing motor insulation system life. In conclusion a combination of the PDEV level, rise time and PWM level must all together be considered in this complex design process.

Motor winding

Multi level

Square like voltages

Twisted pair


Partial discharges



Thomas Hammarström

Power grids and Components

IEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation

1070-9878 (ISSN) 15584135 (eISSN)

Vol. 25 2 559-567

Subject Categories

Vehicle Engineering

Other Civil Engineering

Other Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Information Engineering



More information

Latest update