Researchers Improve Thermal Properties of Transformer Oil Using Nanoparticles

A Rice University research team comprising Jaime Taha-Tijerina, Tharangattu Narayanan and Matteo Pasquali has discovered that trace quantities of hexagonal boron nitride nanoparticles are capable of improving the efficiency of standard transformer oils by up to 80%.

Rice University postdoctoral researcher Tharangattu Narayanan(left), and graduate student Jaime Taha-Tijerina show vials of the oils they say are up to 80 percent more efficient in keeping transformers cool. (credit Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

The nanoparticle-infused transformer oil improves the capability of devices, ranging from microelectronic components to electrical transformers, to remove excess heat. The research team conducted the study in the lab of Pulickel Ajayan, a materials scientist at the Rice University.

Transformer oils are used to cool and insulate a transformer’s windings in order to prevent voltage leakage and shortage. Narayanan commented that a 0.1 weight percentage of boron nitride suspended in transformer oil improves its efficiency by roughly 80%.

According to Taha-Tijerina, a trace amount of boron nitride nanoparticles not only improves the efficiency but also retains the electrically insulating properties of transformer oils. Narayanan explained that the 600-nm width, five-atomic-layer thick boron nitride particles have high dispensability in oil and have high resistance to electricity.

The research team has also discovered that the presence of boron nitride nanoparticles has only a minimum impact on the viscosity of the transformer oil. Ajayan commented that the value of existing applications can be optimized with the help of novel materials and innovative methods. Thermal management is a major concern in industry that can be addressed with the selection of right materials. He added that the two-dimensional nature of the nanoparticle fillers retains their stability in oils and prevents them from settling down for a longer period.


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