Prevention of Biofilm Formation on Silicone Rubber Materials for Outdoor High Voltage Insulators
Sammanfattning: Microbial colonization on the surface of silicone rubber high voltage outdoor insulators often results in the formation of highly hydrated biofilm that influence the surface properties, such as surface hydrophobicity. The loss of hydrophobicity might lead to dry band formation, and, in the worst cases, flashover and failure of the insulator.In this work, the biocidal effects of various antimicrobial compounds in silicone rubber materials were determined. These materials were evaluated according to an ISO standard for the antimicrobial activity against the growth of aggressive fungal strains, and microorganisms that have been found colonizing the surfaces of outdoor insulators in several areas in the world. Several compounds suppressed microbial growth on the surfaces of the materials without compromising the material properties of the silicone rubber. A commercial biocide and thymol were very effective against fungal growth, and sodium benzoate could suppress the fungal growth to some extent. Thymol could also inhibit algal growth. However, methods for preservation of the antimicrobial agents in the bulk of the material need to be further developed to prevent the loss of the compounds during manufacturing. Biofilm formation affected the surface hydrophobicity and complete removal of the biofilm was not achieved through cleaning. Surface analysis confirmed that traces of microorganisms were still present after cleaning.Further, surface modification of the silicone rubber was carried out to study how the texture and roughness of the surface affect biofilm formation. Silicone rubber surfaces with regular geometrical patterns were evaluated to determine the influence of the surface texture on the extent of microbial growth in comparison with plane silicone rubber surfaces. Silicone rubber nanocomposite surfaces, prepared using a spray-deposition method that applied hydrophilic and hydrophobic nanoparticles to obtain hierarchical structures, were studied to determine the effects of the surface roughness and improved hydrophobicity on the microbial attachment. Microenvironment chambers were used for the determination of microbial growth on different modified surfaces under conditions that mimic those of the insulators in their outdoor environments. Different parts of the insulators were represented by placing the samples vertically and inclined. The microbial growth on the surfaces of the textured samples was evenly distributed throughout the surfaces because of the uniform distribution of the water between the gaps of the regular structures on the surfaces. Microbial growth was not observed on the inclined and vertical nanocomposite surfaces due to the higher surface roughness and improved surface hydrophobicity, whereas non-coated samples were colonized by microorganisms.
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