Incorporating inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) into polymer matrices provides a promising solution for suppressing space charge effects that can lead to premature failure of electrical insulation used in high voltage direct current engineering. However, realizing homogeneous NP dispersion is a great challenge especially in high-molecular-weight polymers. Here, we address this issue in crosslinked polyethylene by grafting matrix-compatible polymer brushes onto spherical colloidal SiO2 NPs (10–15 nm diameter) to obtain a uniform NP dispersion, thus achieving enhanced space charge suppression, improved DC breakdown strength, and restricted internal field distortion (≤10.6%) over a wide range of external DC fields from −30 kV/mm to −100 kV/mm at room temperature. The NP dispersion state is the key to ensuring an optimized distribution of deep trapping sites. A well-dispersed system provides sufficient charge trapping sites and shows better performance compared to ones with large aggregates. This surface ligand strategy is attractive for future nano-modification of many engineering insulating polymers.

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