Palm Oil Insulation Could Transform Transformers

Research by a University of Leicester student has identified an environmentally friendly alternative to a major industrial use of oil. Abdelghaffar Abdelmalik, who is studying for a PhD in the University’s Department of Engineering, has discovered a way to treat palm kernel oil so that it can be used to insulate electrical transformers.

Transformers use petroleum-derived oil as insulation between electrical components but this makes them reliant on fossil fuels and also causes environmental problems if there is a leak. Abdelghaffar Abdelmalik is exploring the possibility of using a derivative of palm kernel oil which is environmentally friendly, non-toxic and has suitable properties such as low viscosity and low conductivity. This would extend the life of electrical transformers and greatly reduce the effects of leakage.

His research has already been acknowledged as significant by the Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society, part of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which last year awarded him a $5,000 research grant to support his innovative work.

“The results of the work done so far are encouraging,” says Abdelghaffar Abdelmalik. “There are indications that this research may produce a sustainable and all-purpose electrical insulating fluid that would serve as an effective alternative to mineral-based insulating oil.”

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