Human perception threshold project

Determination of the human perception threshold for static electric fields in HVDC transmission

In line with the energy revolution in Germany the use of renewable energy becomes increasingly necessary. A large amount of energy is produced i.e. in offshore wind farms within the northern sea although the energy is required all over Germany. One challenging aspect in this context is to transmit energy over large distances to metropolitan areas in central and southern parts of Germany. To ensure transmission with little loss high voltage direct current (HVDC) lines and underground cables are in the process of planning. In part new transmission towers have to be established whereas in some cases HVDC transmission lines can be assembled with existing alternating current transmission towers. In this context the question arises how people can perceive electric fields comparable to those produced by HVDC transmission lines.

The primary goal of this project is to determine a perception threshold for static electric fields comparable to those observed below HVDC transmission lines. Furthermore experimental settings to investigate perception thresholds for alternating electric fields and for hybrid conditions are conducted. At transmission lines ions are produced during corona discharge and another research question therefore concerns the impact of ions on the human perception of electric fields.

The central tool of this project is our high voltage perception lab that was built on the area of Aachen university hospital. We can produce static electric fields up to 50 kV/m together with ion concentration up to 500 nA/m2. Fields of alternating current can reach strength up to 30 kV/m and combinations of direct and alternating current fields can be generated. Additionally we can manipulate temperature and humidity to specifically investigate their influences human perception. The global aim of the project is to determine human perception thresholds of electric fields with different characteristics considering interindividual factors such as age, hair characteristics or skin moisture.

Contact person:
Dr. phil. Michael Kursawe

Michael Kursawe, Kathrin Jankowiak