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University of Manchester High Voltage Lab

Walking down Grosvenor Street, I often stared at the massive high-voltage equipment behind the engineering building windows. However, I had neither the time nor the opportunity to visit the Manchester High Voltage Lab. Yesterday, thanks to the lab team’s efforts, I took part in a demonstration tour and saw high-voltage equipment in action.

The lab is truly impressive. It costs around £9m and is the largest HV test facility in UK academia, that is, the largest electrical lab owned by a university and used for academic purposes. I find it interesting that it is not enough to buy all this expensive equipment to make such a lab. The lab should be engineered in advance, along with the building and surrounding infrastructure. For example, a 1.5 MVA transformer is installed to supply the lab. You can imagine how much it affects the local grid. The HV equipment also requires proper insulation and grounding. The ground rods of the lab go to a 25 meters depth.

HV tests are quite fast, especially impulse testing. A smartphone camera cannot really capture the 3-meter arc. Yet, you can check its sound:

In the adjacent Medium Voltage Lab, the tests can be much slower. You can see equipment left for hundreds of hours. Researchers examine it after a few days or even weeks to check how the insulation degrades:

The lab is definitely worth visiting for anyone interested in power electronics and HV equipment. Try knocking on the lab door as you walk by. The PhD students and Postdocs working there are very friendly. They will be happy to chat and show you their lab.

Andrey Churkin (Андрей Чуркин) 2022