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200 1 Annual Report Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena

Modelling of the effect of electrode geometries on the corona discharge current-voltage

characteristic for wire-plate electrostatic precipitators
D. Brocilo', J.S. Chang', R.D. Findlay', Y. Kawada' and T. Ito'
'McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Musashi Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan
Abstract: An electrostatic precipitator (ESP) is used as
a dust particle collection device in various power plants,
steel manufactories, pulp and paper plants, cement
plants, food processing, etc., as well as in commercial
buildings and home ventilation systems. ESP operates
on the principle of electrostatic separation of dust
particles after charging, hence high ion density and
electric fields are required. Therefore, the corona
discharge current-voltage characteristic is very
important and depends on several factors: discharge
electrode shape, dimensions and surface condition, gas
flow properties, dust particle loading and space charge,
polarity of applied voltage, etc. In this work, a model
for prediction of the current-voltage characteristic is
presented and experimentally validated for round,
threaded, rectangular, and rigid discharge electrodes in
combination with plate type collecting electrodes. The
experimental validation shows good agreement for the
case of the round discharge electrode. The model
predicts the effect of wire diameter, plate length and gas
flow temperature. For the rigid discharge electrode, of
the same electrode thickness as the diameter of the
round electrode, much lower corona onset voltage was

The collection efficiency of dust particles in ESPs
depends on the charging and collection of the particles.
Charging requires high current density (or ion density)
and electric field, while the particle collection requires
only high electric field.
From the point of view of particle charging, the
current density increases the characteristic charging
time, thus leading to a higher surface charge for the
same gas residence time. The electric field also
increases the surface charge. The magnitude of this
effect depends on the dust particle size. For dust particle
diameter (4) greater than 10 pm, the particles are
mainly charged by field charging mechanism. Thus, the
electric field has a greater impact on the surface charge
then the ion density. For dust particle diameters smaller
than 0.1 pm, the particles are mainly charged by the
diffusion charging mechanism. Therefore, the ion
density has a greater impact on the surface charge than
the electric field. For dust particles in the transition
region (O.1pm I dp IIOpm), the electric field and the

0-7803-7053-8/1/$10.002001 IEEE

ion density contributed with same order of magnitude to

the dust surface charge.
Related to the dust particle collection, the electric
field increases the mobility of the charged dust particles,
thus leading to higher collection efficiency. The
magnitude of the current density may have a dual effect.
On one hand, the current density may increase the
packing density of the dust layer and the electrical
forces generated by the dust particle contact-surface
capacitance. This is considered as a positive effect,
since it decreases the re-entrainment of dust particles.
On the other hand, a high current density across the high
resistivity layer may lead to the onset of back corona,
thus leading to a lower collection efficiency.
The goal is to operate at the maximum allowable
current, which is limited by sparking, and the
breakdown of the dust layer, known as back-corona.
The maximum allowed current can be smaller than the
maximum theoretical current above spark voltages,
since the nonuniform current density between discharge
and collecting electrodes may lead to earlier breakdown.
In general, the current-voltage (I-V) characteristic
of an electrostatic precipitator is governed by the
electrode geometry, the presence of the dust layer on the
collection electrode, dust particle parameters, and the
gas flow conditions. Many other conditions, such as the
surface condition of the discharge electrode,
misalignment of the electrodes, non-uniform dust
loading, etc. can affect the I-V Characteristic. It is very
difficult to determine the discharge current based on a
pure theoretical analysis [1,2,3]. In this work, the
constitutive relationships for I-V characteristics were
developed and experimental validations for various
scale-up sues were conducted.

Modelling of Current-Voltage Characteristics

The corona discharge I-V characteristic is governed by
the charge transport and Poisson's equations as follows

ji= C ; V N , + p i N i B - D i V N i ; V . -J .=-- aNi


V . E- = - -eN


where Ji is the ion flux, Ni is the ion density, U, is the


gas velocity, is the ion mobility, Di is the diffusion

coefficient of ions, E is the electric field, e is the
elementary charge, and E, is the electric permittivity of
fiee space. For the conditions when g8 <c:Z and
negligible diffusion term, the I-V characteristics can be
simplified as follows [1,2]:
I , = KV(V - 5)
where, IL is the time-averaged current per unit length, K
(K=&.&.K,J is constant depending on the collecting
and discharge electrode geometry (&), dust loading
and gas parameters (Kd,V is the applied voltage,
is the corona onset voltage. When, the corona
onset voltage is reached, the time-averaged corona
current starts to increase, at first slowly and then
rapidly, with the applied voltage.
The corona onset voltage Vi can be obtained from
Peeks expression [3] for coaxial wire-pipe electrode
geometries with the discharge onset electric field (Ei) on
the surface of the corona wire.


Plate-type CE: The I-V model for a wire-plate ESP

geometry is calculated from (5), which is similar to the
I-V characteristic for the cylindrical ESP, assuming that
the outer radius r, equals the wire-plate spacing (W/2).
However the I-V characteristic does not only depend on
the wire-plate spacing (W/2), but also on the wire-towire spacing. For the case of one DE the wire-to-Wire
spacing was set to CE plate length (L). Furthermore, the
modifications of variable n were conducted according to
Moore [3] for various ESP width-over-length ratios
(WL)as shown in the Table 1.

I, = K,K,K,V(V-V,)

W4m0n K,p,V(V-V,)
(-)* ln-


Table 1: Modification of n according to W/L ratio.



ro =4-

84x104 1
E, =32.2x10pmG(l+132.2~10


p = 0.386

= k,

r, = 0.5. L 0.3457e



273 + Tg[ c]
Whereby, ri is the wire diameter, r, is the pipe diameter,
p is the gas condition factor, p is the pressure, T, is the
gas temperature, and m (m S I ) is the discharge
electrode factor that takes into account the geometry and
the surface condition of the electrode.

The constitutive relationshipsfor various collecting

(CE) and discharge @E) electrode geometries

DE geometries: Discharge electrode geometries do not

only affect the slope of the I-V characteristic, but also
the corona onset voltage. Therefore, the DE geometry
effect is incorporated into the & and
The DE geometries are modelled by an equivalent
radius ri of the round DE as follows:

The present work examines plate-type CE in

combination with round, rectangular, threaded, and rigid
DE geometries.


Figure 1: Sketch of (a) round A={O.15; 0.23; 1.5; 2; 3}mm (b)

threaded {Do; D,}={2.5; 2}mm, (c) rectangular A=2.7mm, (d) rigid
A=lOmm, B=2mm, C=D=9mm, E=6Omm, F=28mm discharge
electrodes. ESP has two sets of plates 101.5mm and 203.5mm in
length and 30.5.5mm in height. The wire-plate spacing is

The equivalent diameter of the threaded wire was

approximated by the mean diameter of the inside
and outside thread.
The equivalent diameter of the rectangular wire
was approximated by the length of each side.
The rigid discharge electrode requires special
consideration. The value of ri from (4) was set
arbitrarily to 0.15mm. The value of q from ( 5 )
was set to half of the electrode width (B/2).

Furthermore, values of & for round, threaded,

rectangular, and rigid type DE were obtained
empirically from measured corona onset voltages. In the
case of a large discrepancy between the measured and
calculated I-V characteristic, the geometry correction
coefficient b.was introduced, as shown in the Table 2.


connected to an oscilloscope for the waveform

recording, and an electrometer for the time-averaged
current recording on the collecting electrode side.

Table 2: Values of ri ,m and baccording to DE-type.


DE ICE types



Rectangular # B O
Rectangular #45
Rigid &short CE
Rigid &long CE












Rectangular #BO... DE and CE are aligned.

Rectangular k45.. . DE is rotated 45 related to the CE orientation.

Gas composition and temperature

Gas composition and temperature effects are
incorporated in the mobility of the ions and the relative
gas density.
Mobility of the ions: The mobility of the ions is a
h c t i o n of the mixture of gases, the gas temperature,
the gas pressure, and the polarity of the applied voltage.
A fairly substantial amount of data is available on the
dependence of the ionic mobility in pure gases with gas
temperature, and electric field versus pressure ratio [5].
However there is not enough experimental data for
various gas mixtures. Therefore, the corona chemistry
simulation of Chang and Kwan [6] is used to determine
the dominant ion species, depending on the voltage
From Chang and Kwan [6], the dominant ion in air
is N202-under negative corona andN,O+ for positive
corona. The mobility of ions can be estimated fiom the
reference mobility of 0,-ando ions and the molar
mass ratio [6] as follows:

Figure 2: Schematic diagram of the experimental apparatus.

The current-voltage characteristic, shown in (3),

can be approximated by a straight line when displaying
in square root of current per unit length versus applied
voltage. Experimentally obtained results for various DE
geometries are plotted in Figure 3. Figure 4 shows the
comparison between experimental and predicted I-V
curves for round and spike DE geometries. Results
related to the CE length prediction are shown in Figure

E )


-/?-2 -lk



The effect of the gas temperature on the mobility of
the ions can be approximated by [6]:






Negative Voltage [W



oround 0.15mm
xround 0.23mm
Around 1.5mm
Oround 2mm
Oround 3mm
m rectangular 90 deg 0 rectangular 45 deg fD rigid

Current-Voltage (I-V) Characteristics

Corona discharge currents were measured by an
electrometer on the CE side. The experimental loop,
shown in Figure 2, includes: (a) the gas conditioning
section with electrical heater, humidifier, various gas
cylinders, and a gas combustion chamber for simulation
of combustion gasses; (b) the ESP chamber with wireplate and wire-cylinder geometry; and (c) monitoring
instruments: analogue voltage and current meters on the
power supply side, current and voltage probes

Figure 3: Measured I-V curves for various DE geometries.

The corona current on the round DE starts in the form of

corona tufts and then develops into an unsteady glow
corona as the voltage level increases. The surface
condition of the DE determines the form of the corona
discharge. Negative glow corona along the whole length
of the wire was observed only in the case of the thin
wire with a clean surface. Larger diameter DES were


exhibited rapidly moving corona glow along short

sections, interrupted by localised tufts caused by
electrode surface imperfections. The rigid DE combined
the advantages of the thin wire and the rod. Like a thin
wire, the rigid DE has a low onset voltage and a high
current. The rigid DE has also a high sparking voltageand a rigid construction as a rode type DES.

The experimental results show different degrees of

discharge current response to gas flow for rigid-plate
ESP, as shown in Figure 6. Compared to the stationary
conditions, discharge current and sparking voltage
increase with the increasing gas flow velocity due to ion
transport (1) and effective electrode cooling by the gas
flow. The sparking voltage may increase, due to the loss
of charge fiom the current channel by convective charge

~ m u n d3mm (m)






From the experimental validation of current-voltage

characteristicsthe following was concluded:
The surface condition factor for thin and thick
wires is 0.9. For larger wire diameters with rough
surface condition, the factor may reduce to 0.85.
The threaded wire geometry can be modelled by
the mean thread diameter and m~ of 0.55.
The rectangular DE and its orientation were
successllly modelled by side length. The
geometry correction coefficients kc. of aligned
and 45O-rotated DE are 7 and 9, respectively.
The surface condition of spikes and their spacing
are very important. Namely, dual discharge
points on the surface of the spike and initiation
of corona glow between spikes were observed
for the present geometry of the rigid DE.


NegativeVoltage [kVl

Figure 4: Comparison between measured (m) and predicted @) I-V

curves for round and spike DES.CE length was 10.15mm.

















' '







The authors wish to express their appreciation to S. Teii,

S. Ono, and V. Morgan for valuable discussions and
comments. This work is supported by NSERC of



Negative Voltage [kVl

Figure 5: Measured (m) and predicted @) I-V curves for short (CEs) and long (CE-I) collecting electrodes.

[l] 1.1. Thomson, Conduction of Electriciy through Gases,
Cambridge University Press, New York,pp. 267,1945.
[2] C.W. Rice, Phys. Rev. 7, pp. 228-229, 1947

[3] A.D. Moore, Electrostatics and its applications, Wiley New

York, NY, pp. 194,1973
[4] J.S. Chang, F. Pontiga, P. Atten, and A. Castellanos ,"Hysteresis
effect of corona discharge in a narrow coaxial *pipe
tube with gas flow," IEEE Transaction on Industry Applications,
vo1.32, 110.6, pp. 1250-1256, NovlDec. 1996.

[5] E.W. McDaniel and E.A. Mason, The mobility and d i f i i o n of

ions, John Wiley & Sons New York, NY, 1973





[6] J.S. Chang and A. Kwan, "Modeling of dry air chemistry in a

coaxial wire-pipe negative corona discharge," Proceedings ESAD 3 Joint Symposium on Electrostatics 1998, Morgan Hill, pp.
391-403, June 1998.


NegativeVoltage [W

Figure 6: Effect of gas flow on I-V characteristic for rigid-plateESP