Aluminium Windings - Dry Type Transformers 

By on

The other day I was talking to a colleague who is a building services consultant.  Despite regularly specifying dry-type/cast resin transformers he was unaware that many manufacturers use aluminium for the windings; I think Siemens exclusively use aluminium and don’t offer copper anymore.  To confirm this he promptly phoned Schneider Electric and was informed that they use aluminium (or copper on request).

This reminded me of a few years ago when I was working for a contractor and wanted to install Siemens transformers on a large international airport.  Siemens was one of the three preferred vendors; however the airport’s specification called for copper windings.  Because of the specification the airport refused the transformers for weeks (we even had the Siemens factory guys out from Germany).  The client’s agreement in the end was not driven by technical considerations, but by contractual/time delay issues.  Transformers were installed and as far as I know are still happily humming away.

The illustration of a Siemens GEAFOL transformer shows the HV and LV aluminium windings.  The HV windings are wound from aluminium foil interleaved with an insulating foil.  The LV windings are wound form single-aluminium sheets and interleaved with cast-resin impregnated fibreglass fabric. Foil type windings are subject to less electrical stress than conventional windings resulting in higher AC and impulse voltage withstand characteristics.  Thermal expansion coefficients of aluminium and cast resin are similar and resulting thermal stress due to load change is kept to a minimum.

To my mind, compliance with the performance requirements of the manufacturing standards is the important criteria and the constructional aspects (aluminium or copper) are not that significant. As a final practical tip, during the above airport installation copper cable was being terminated onto the aluminium terminals of the transformer.  In this instance bi-metallic plates were inserted between the cable lugs and transformer terminals.



Steven McFadyen's avatar Steven McFadyen

Steven has over twenty five years experience working on some of the largest construction projects. He has a deep technical understanding of electrical engineering and is keen to share this knowledge. About the author

myElectrical Engineering

comments powered by Disqus

  1. ManjoloPhiri's avatar ManjoloPhiri says:
    9/1/2011 2:11 PM

    The only reason I would allow the use of Alluminium windings in a transformer is the price difference between copper and alluminum. Copper is the best material so far for transformer windings whatever electrical parameters you consider! Please transformer manufacturers continue using copper afterall the price is now down!

    • Steven's avatar Steven says:
      9/1/2011 2:11 PM

      My aluminium winding experience has been with Siemens because they only manufacture aluminium windings. Have to say that I have never had any problems and the transformers work great. Of course copper windings also work great (to me both are acceptable). Talking of problems and a bit off topic, I also think that when selecting a transformer it needs to be suitable for the intended environment/loading and that surge arrestors if used are correctly sized. I have recently come across an instance where this was not done and they have had several transformer failures.

  2. rommel's avatar rommel says:
    9/1/2011 2:11 PM

    Which material, element is more conductive? copper or aluminium?

    • Steven's avatar Steven says:
      9/1/2011 2:11 PM

      Copper is the better conductor. Although Aluminum is still pretty good as a conductor.

  3. Paul's avatar Paul says:
    12/28/2012 2:57 PM

    How the bi-metallic plates can eliminate the ionization potential between two type of metal?

    • Steven's avatar Steven says:
      1/13/2013 7:41 AM

      Bimetallic plates prevent corrosion which could result from a direct connection of two dissimilar metals (aluminum and copper in this case).


Comments are closed for this post:
  • have a question or need help, please use our Questions Section
  • spotted an error or have additional info that you think should be in this post, feel free to Contact Us



IEC 60287 Current Capacity of Cables - An Introduction

IEC 60287 "Calculation of the continuous current rating of cables (100% load factor)" is the International Standard which defines the procedures and equations...

1,000 kV UHV First for China

At the beginning of the year China put the world's first 1,000 kV UHV transmission system into operation. Transmitting power at over a million volts is...

The ac resistance of conductors

In a previous article I looked at the dc resistance of conductors and in this article we turn our attention to ac resistance. If you have not read the...

Generation of a Sine Wave

A fundamental concept behind the operation of alternating current systems is that voltage and current waveforms will be sinusoidal – a Sine Wave. This...

Medium Voltage Switchgear Room Design Guide

Many medium voltage (MV) indoor switchgear rooms  exist worldwide. The complexity of these rooms varies considerably depending on location, function and...

Electromechanical Relays

Electromechanical relays have been the traditional backbone of electrical protection systems.  While over recent years these have been replaced by microprocessor...

Low Voltage Fault Tables

The following tables provide quick order of magnitude fault levels for a a range of typical low voltage situations.

Motor Starting - Introduction

Motor starting and its associated problems are well-known to many people who have worked on large industrial processes. However, these things are, of course...

Differential protection, the good old days

This morning I was explaining how differential protection works to a junior engineer. To give him something to read I opened up the NPAG (Network Protection...

Maximum Demand for Buildings

Estimating maximum demand is a topic frequently discussed. Working out how much power to allow for a building can be very subjective . Allowing too much...

Have some knowledge to share

If you have some expert knowledge or experience, why not consider sharing this with our community.  

By writing an electrical note, you will be educating our users and at the same time promoting your expertise within the engineering community.

To get started and understand our policy, you can read our How to Write an Electrical Note