Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only


Electrical and electronic engineering

Publication Details

Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Dublin Institute of Technology, 2013.


Under ideal circumstances, electric power supply voltage and current waveforms should be sinusoidal. However, this is very seldom the case in the built environment, due to the proliferation of non-linear loads. Examples of non-linear loads are those containing switched mode power supplies, reactors and electronic rectifiers/inverters. Common devices such as personal computers, fluorescent lighting, electric motors, variable speed drives, transformers and reactors and virtually all other electronic equipment are examples of non-linear loads. Non-linear loads are the norm in the built environment rather than the exception. Such loads produce complex current and voltage waves and simple spectral analysis of these complex waves shows that they can be represented by a wave at the fundamental power frequency plus other wave forms at integer and non-integer multiples of this frequency. These harmonics produce an overall effect called 'Harmonic Distortion' which can give rise to overheating in plant, equipment and the power cables supplying them, leading to reduced efficiency, operational life and sometimes failure.

Over the last few decades, harmonic distortion in power supplies has increased significantly due to the increasing use of electronic components in industry and elsewhere. Buildings such as modern office blocks, commercial premises, factories, hospitals, etc.,contain equipment that generates harmonic loads as described above. Each item of equipment produces a unique harmonic signature and therefore a harmonic distortion which can be predicted if the equipment in use can be determined in advance. This thesis seeks to identify the harmonic signatures of different types of equipment commonly used and to predict the thermal loading effects on distribution cables caused by the skin and proximity effects of harmonic currents.