Let CO2 spark! Understand breakdown dynamics for high voltage technology and lightning


Sparks, arcs and lightning are well-known examples of highly non-equilibrium electric discharges in air. Most of this electric breakdown process is understood only empirically. Hence when gas composition, pressure, temperature or the electric pulse shape are changed, it frequently cannot be predicted when and how the gas will break down. Within the project we will generate, diagnose and model pulsed gas discharges in different gas mixtures at pressures from 0.01 to 12 bar and at temperatures of up to 6000 K. The discharges will be generated by voltage pulses of up to 500 kV amplitude of nanosecond to millisecond duration. We will develop multiscale models and gain macroscopic physical understanding.
In particular, we will study discharges in CO2. High pressure CO2 is a possible replacement of SF6 that is commonly used in high voltage switch gear and gaseous insulation, but has an extreme global warming potential. Lightning on planet Venus also occurs in a CO2 atmosphere at high pressure and temperature, therefore our project will also help understanding measurements of a current space mission to this planet.


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. U.M. Ebert

Affiliated with

Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica, Modelling Analysis and Computing

Team members

Dr. B.B. Bagheri Varnousfaderani, S.J. Dijcks MSc, S. Kumar


01/02/2017 to 30/09/2021