Electrical Applications


Electrical Inspection

Ultrasound inspection may be performed at all voltages (low, medium and high). When electrical apparatus such as switchgear, transformers, insulators or disconnects and splices fail, the results can be catastrophic. This is just as true in industrial plants as it is in the power transmission and distribution side. Electrical discharges such as arcing, tracking or, in higher voltages, corona have the potential to create equipment failure and costly downtime. In addition, the problems of RFI and TVI impact on our valuable communication networks. If left undetected, these conditions can become a source of an arc flash incident, which can result in severe injury or death. Arcing, tracking and corona produce ultrasound and are detected with an Ultraprobe.

How Ultrasonic Electrical Detection Works

Arcing, tracking and corona all produce ionization which disturbs the surrounding air molecules. An Ultraprobe detects high frequency sounds produced by these emissions and translates them (via heterodyning) down into the audible ranges. The specific sound quality of each type of emission is heard in headphones while the intensity of the signal is observed on a display panel. These sounds may be recorded and analyzed through ultrasound spectral analysis software for a more accurate diagnosis. Normally, electrical equipment should be silent, although some equipment such as transformers may produce a constant 60 cycle hum, or some steady mechanical noises. These should not be confused with the erratic, sizzling frying, uneven and popping sound of an electrical discharge.

Detection Method

Before beginning any inspection of electric equipment, be sure to review your plant or company’s safety procedures. Essentially, as in generic leak detection, the area of inspection is scanned starting at a high sensitivity level. To determine the location of the emission, reduce the sensitivity and follow the sound to the loudest point. If it is not possible to remove covers, or plates or doors, scan around the seams and vent slots. Any potentially damaging discharges should be detected.

When it is not possible to get close to the test equipment, such as for safety reasons or while inspecting over-head power lines, use a parabolic microphone. UE Systems has two models, a parabolic dish – the Ultrasonic Waveform Concentrator (UWC) and the Long Range Module (LRM). These highly sensitive, directional sensors double the detection distance of a standard scanning module and provide pinpoint accuracy.

For more accurate diagnosis, ultrasound spectral analysis software helps identify sound patterns related to electrical emissions through spectral (FFT) and Time Series screens. Some of the more advanced instruments have on-board sound recording while others have on-board spectral analysis screens to help provide a diagnosis on the spot.

Recommended instruments: Ultraprobe 2000, Ultraprobe 9000, Ultraprobe 10,000, Ultraprobe 15,000

Electrical Equipment Screams For Attention
Training Wheels for Electrical Wave Files


Arc Flash
Electric Arc Flash can severely burn or kill anyone exposed to it.

There have been a reported 5-10 arc flash incidents occurring daily. Efforts are under way to cut this figure down. According to the NFPA, arc flash is “a dangerous condition associated with the release of energy caused by an electric arc.” When an arc flash occurs, there may be 1 to 2 explosions within milliseconds, which can generate temperatures between 5,000 and 35,000° F. The pressure wave from an arc blast can be very similar to an explosion from a hand grenade.

When it is necessary to understand whether or not an arc flash condition is present, a multi technology approach is recommended. Integrating Infrared and ultrasound can be useful in determining equipment condition. If there are no infrared scan ports in the equipment, it will be difficult to detect arcing or tracking with infrared. Corona cannot be detected relying on infrared alone. Incorporating ultrasound to scan around door seals and air vents will help detect the presence of conditions that produce arc flash hazard potential in enclosed, energized electrical equipment.

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