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A circuit breaker is an equipment that breaks a

circuit either manually or automatically under
all conditions at no load, full load or short
Operating Principle
Two contacts called electrode remains closed
under normal operating conditions. When fault
occurs on any part of the system, the trip coil of
the circuit breaker get energized and contacts
are separated.
Arc Phenomenon

An arc is struck when contacts are separated. The

current is thus able to continue. Thus the main
duty of a circuit breaker is to distinguish the arc
within the shortest possible time.
The arc provides the low resistance path to the
current and the current in the circuit remains
The arc resistance depends upon the
following factors.

Degree of ionization
Length of the arc

Cross Section of the arc

Methods of Arc Extinction

High Resistance Method

Low Resistance Method



Air Circuit breaker
Air Circuit breaker
Air Circuit breaker
Air Circuit breaker
Air Circuit breaker
Air Circuit breaker
Bulk Oil Circuit breaker
Bulk Oil Circuit breaker
Oil Circuit breaker
The principle under-lying the minimum oil breaker is
shown in figs . Briefly, when current arcs in oil, the
medium vaporizes and a bubble forms around the arc.

This high-pressure gas, which is almost 80 percent

hydrogen, inhibits ionization and moves through the
channels surrounding the arc.

It enhances convection in the oil, which helps to cool

the arc residuals around zero current.
Oil Circuit breaker
As can be seen, the arc runs in a
mixture of hydrogen (in both molecular
and atomic states), carbon and copper
vapour. The thermal conductivity is high
due to the dissociation of hydrogen
molecules into atoms. The thermal
energy generated in the arc is primarily
dissipated outward through the
surrounding gas envelope to the oil.
Also, the gas in the arc chamber
escapes to the gas expansion chamber,
so that a type of heat dissipation by
convection is created, thus the rate at
which heat is dissipating is increasing.
Near current zero, the thermal power
generated by the current (in the arc)
approaches zero.
Arc Control Oil Circuit Breakers
In case of plain oil circuit breakers artificial control of arc is
less therefore long arc length is necessary for arc quenching. It
is necessary that final arc extinction should occur while the
contact gap is still shorter.
For this some arc control is incorporated and the breakers are
then called arc control circuit breakers.
There are two types of such breakers:
1. Self-blast oil circuit breakers in which arc control is
provided by internal means i.e. arc itself facilitates its own
extinction efficiently.
2. Forced blast oil circuit breakers in which arc control is
provided by mechanical means external to the circuit breaker.
Arc Control Oil Circuit Breakers
Self-blast oil circuit breakers In this type of breakers, the gases
produced during arcing are confined to a small volume by the use of
an insulating rigid pressure chamber or explosion pot surrounding
the contacts.
The space available for the arc gases is restricted by the chamber so
a very high pressure is developed to force the oil and gas through or
around the arc to extinguish it. The magnitude of the pressure
depends upon the value of fault current to be interrupted.
The arc itself generates the pressure so such breakers are also called
self-generated pressure oil circuit breakers.
The pressure chamber is relatively cheap and gives reduced final arc
extinction gap length and arcing time as against the plain oil breaker.
Different types of explosion pots are described below:
Arc Control POTS
a. Plain explosion pot it is a rigid
cylinder of insulating material and
encloses the fixed and moving
contacts as shown in fig .
The moving contact is a cylindrical
rod passing through a restricted
opening called throat at the bottom.
When fault occurs the contacts get
separated and an arc is struck
between them. The heat of the arc
decomposes oil into a gas at very
high pressure in the pot.
This high pressure forces the oil and
gas through and around the arc to
extinguish it.
Arc Control POTS
b. Cross jet explosion pot Fig shows
the cross jet pot which is made of
insulating material.
When fault occurs, the moving
contacts of the circuit breaker
begins to separate and arc is
struck in the top of the pot. The
gas generated by the arc exerts
pressure on the oil in the back
When the moving contact uncovers
the arc splitter ducts, fresh oil is
forced across the arc path. The arc
is therefore driven sideways into
the arc splitters, which increase
the arc length, causing arc
Arc Control POTS
c. Self compensated
explosion pot This
pot is a combination of
plain explosion pot and
cross jet explosion pot.
So it can interrupt low
as well as heavy short
circuit currents. Fig
shows the self
compensated explosion
Minimum Oil Circuit Breaker
Minimum Oil Circuit Breaker
In these breakers, when the switch is opened, the
current arcs and the pressure in the upper chamber
rises significantly, causing the piston between the two
chambers to move.
At a certain point, an aperture in the piston passes
the moving contact. This causes a strong axial flow of
oil from the lower chamber, which cools the arc.
The obvious advantages of this approach led to a
quick adoption of the minimum oil breaker and a
phasing out of the conventional oil tank breaker.
Minimum Oil Circuit Breaker

The moving contact has just been separated and arc is initiated in MOCB.
Minimum Oil Circuit Breaker

The ionized gas around the arc sweep away through upper vent and cold oil
enters into the arcing chamber through the lower vent in axial direction as soon
as the moving contact tip crosses the lower vent opening and final arc
quenching in minimum oil circuit breaker occurs.
Minimum Oil Circuit Breaker

The cold oil occupies the gap between fixed contact and moving contact
and the minimum oil circuit breaker finally comes into open position.
Minimum Oil Circuit Breaker
Consists of two parts.
chamber( consist
of fixed and
moving contact)
Minimum Oil Circuit Breaker
Minimum Oil Circuit Breaker
The axial venting generates high gas pressure and hence has
high dielectric strength,so it is mainly used for interrupting
low current at high voltage.

On the other hand radial venting produces relatively low gas

pressure and hence low dielectric strength so it can be used
for low voltage and high current interruption.

Many times the combination of both is used in minimum oil

circuit breaker so that the chamber is equally efficient to
interrupt low current as well as high current. These types of
circuit breaker are available up to 8000 MVA at 245 KV.
Disadvantages Of Oil Circuit Breaker

It is inflammable and there is a risk of fire.

It may form an explosive mixture with air.
It requires maintenance.
Absorbs moisture, so dielectric strength
Oil leakage problem.
Oil has to be replaced after some operations
because of the carbonization of oil.
Air Blast Circuit Breaker
Air Blast Circuit Breaker
Axial Blast Air Blast Circuit Breaker
In Axial Blast ACB the moving contact is in
contact with fixed contact with the help of a
spring pressure.
The nozzle orifice in the fixed contact is
blocked by tip of the moving contact at
normal closed condition of the breaker.
When fault occurs, the high pressure air is
introduced into the arcing chamber. The air
pressure will counteract the spring pressure
and hence the moving contact is withdrawn
from the fixed contact and nozzle hole
becomes open.
At the same time the high pressure air starts
flowing along the arc through the fixed
contact nozzle orifice.
This axial flow of air along the arc through
the nozzle orifice will make the arc lengthen
and colder hence arc voltage become much
higher than system voltage that means
system voltage is insufficient to sustain the
arc consequently the arc is quenched.
Air Blast Circuit Breaker
Air Blast Circuit Breaker
1) There is no chance of fire hazard caused by oil.

2) The breaking speed of circuit breaker is much higher during operation

of air blast circuit breaker.

3) Arc quenching is much faster during operation of air blast circuit


4) The duration of arc is same, for all values of small as well as high
currents interruptions.

5) As the duration of arc is smaller, so lesser amount of heat realized from

arc to current carrying contacts hence the service life of the contacts
becomes longer.

6) The stability of the system can be well maintained as it depends on the

speed of operation of circuit breaker.

7) Requires much less maintenance compared to oil circuit breaker.

Vacuum Circuit Breaker
In a Gas discharge (Townsends discharge) mean free
path of the particles is small and electrons get multiplied
due to various ionization processes and an electron
avalanche is formed.

In VACUUM ( of 10-5 torr ), the mean free path is of the

order of few metres, thus when the electrodes are
separated by few mm an electron passes the gap
without any collision.

Because of large mean free path dielectric strength of

VACUUM is thousand times that of Gas (when it is used
as interrupting medium)
Vacuum Circuit Breaker
In this range of vacuum the breakdown
strength is independent of the gas density.
depends only on the gap length and on the
conditions of electrode surface.
Highly polished and thoroughly degassed
electrodes show higher breakdown
In a vacuum of 10-6 torr, metals like silver,
copper-bismuth attain their max.
breakdown strength for a Gap of slightly
less than 3 mm.
Vacuum Circuit Breaker
In vacuum, Arc is formed by the neutral
atoms, ions and electrons emitted from the
electrodes due to evaporation .
As the current carrying contacts separate
Imperfections on the electrode surface
gives rise to Hot Spots at the point of last
where explosive evaporation by resistive
heating takes place.
Vacuum Circuit Breaker
For low currents a highly mobile spot is
formed, for large currents multiple number
of hotspots are formed.
These spots constitute the main source of
vapour in the arc.
Arc is drawn out due to high electric field
and/or resistive heating.
Vacuum Arc, also known as cold cathode
Vacuum Circuit Breaker
Arc stability in Vacuum
Arc stability depends on
(i)contact material and its vapour pressure
(ii) circuit parameters such as voltage, current,
inductance and capacitance.
Stability is better for higher vapour pressure at
lower temperatures
Thermal conductivity of the metal also affects
the current chopping level.
Capacitance and Inductance also influence Arc
Vacuum Circuit Breaker
Recovery Phenomenon
At current zero the cathode spot extinguishes
within 10-8 s,
after this there is a quick build up of dielectric
strength due to condensing, diffusing of metal
vapour to the glass walls .
Recovery strength of 1 kV/s for an arc
current of 100A is possible.
For a contact separation of 2.5mm a dielectric
strength of 100 kVrms is possible.
Vacuum Circuit Breaker
Vacuum Circuit Breaker
Vacuum Circuit Breaker
Vacuum Circuit Breaker
Vacuum Circuit Breaker
Advantages over SF6 Breakers
Vacuum Circuit Breaker
Fields of application

Power distribution
Cable control and protection
Overhead control and protection
Transformation and distribution substations
Motor and transformer control and protection
Generator control and protection
Capacitor bank control and protection
Sulfur-hexafluoride (SF6) circuit breakers
Gas properties
Sulfur-hexafluoride (SF6) is an excellent gaseous dielectric for high voltage power
SF6 is a colorless non-toxic gas, with good thermal conductivity and density approximately
five times that of air (6.14 kg/m3.). It does not react with materials commonly used in high
voltage circuit breakers. It has been used extensively in high voltage circuit breakers and other
switchgear employed by the power industry.
Applications for SF6 include gas insulated transmission lines and gas insulated power
distribution substations. The combined electrical, physical, chemical and thermal properties
offer many advantages when used in power switchgear.
Some of the outstanding properties of SF6 which make its use in power applications
desirable are:
high dielectric strength
unique arc-quenching ability

excellent thermal stability

good thermal conductivity

The SF6 gas is identified as a greenhouse gas, safety regulation are being introduced in
many countries in order to prevent its release into atmosphere.
SF6 circuit breakers
SF6 is one of the heaviest known gas, whose density is approximately five times
higher than that of air. It is colorless, odorless, inflammable and non-toxic. Besides,
this compound has chemically exceptional stability. In the range of service
conditions (-25 to 50oC), the variation of pressure with temperature is linear and
relatively small.
The overall heat transfer capability of SF6 is excellent. Thus, especially during
interruption of high currents, the arc can be extinguished effectively by thermal
The electronegative character of SF6 molecule provides excellent dielectric
properties. The dielectric strength of SF6 is about 2.5 times higher than that of air.
After the electric arc formed by the opening of contacts, decomposition and
ionization takes places. In addition to fluorine and sulphur, some other
decomposition products arise, but the concentration of these products is 20-30 times
under IDLH threshold limit value (IEC 1634).
After the gas cools down, sulphur and fluorine again forms SF6 compound. Other
decomposition products are absorbed using materials such as activated alumina or
molecular sieves.
SF6 circuit breakers- construction
SF6 circuit breakers- construction
SF6 circuit breakers- Working
SF6 circuit breakers - operation

SF6 circuit breakers - operation
SF6 circuit breakers - operation
The puffer-type of SF6 interrupter is the older of the two
SF6 technologies. It is more capable but more
complicated than the rotary arc-type.
During current interruption, a piston compresses the SF6 gas
in a cylinder, After the main current-carrying contacts part, the
current transfers to the arcing contacts.
Once the arcing contacts part, the SF6 gas in the
compression chamber blasts the arc through the nozzle.
The heat created by the arc breaks the SF6 molecules into
fluorine and sulfur.
Arc energy is absorbed and the arc is cooled.
As current zero is approached, the heat energy subsides as
more SF6 gas enters the system.
At current zero, the high-pressure SF6 gas flows through the
nozzle and extinguishes the arc.
Rotary arc SF6 circuit breakers
Rotary arc SF6 technology is less complicated in design
than the puffer type.
It has fewer parts and does not require such a high-energy
operating mechanism.
However, it is not effective over as wide a range of short
circuit currents and voltages as the SF6 puffer or vacuum.
Suitable applications are somewhat limited.
The gas pressure inside the cylinder is maintained at around 5 kgf per sq. cm.
At higher pressure the dielectric strength of the gas increases. But at higher
pressure the SF6 gas liquify at higher temperature which is undesired. So
heater is required to be arranged for automatic control of the temperature for
circuit breakers where higher pressure is utilised. If the SF6 gas will liquify then
it loses the ability to quench the arc.
Rotary arc SF6 circuit breakers
As the contacts part, the arc transfers from the main
contacts to an annular contact.
This causes the current to switch into the coil behind it.
The coils magnetic field, produced by the load
current itself, causes the arc to rotate rapidly. The
arc is cooled by moving the Arc through SF6 gas.
The SF6 gas is normally at rest inside this interrupter. The
arcs movement acts like a mixer, mixing hotter
and cooler gas. This helps cool the arc. Contact
erosion is also reduced due to this rapid arc movement.
As current zero is approached, the dwindling arc must
sustain enough speed to be lost in the SF6 environment,
in order to withstand the transient recovery voltage.
(This is mentioned because the magnetic field produced
by the load current causesthe all important arc rotation.
As the current decreases, the magnetic field decreases,
and the arc rotation slows.)
At current zero, the arc is cooled and extinguished
SF6 circuit breakers
SF6 gas has high dielectric strength which is the most important quality of a
material for use in electrical equipments and in particular for breaker it is
one of the most desired properties. Moreover it has high Rate of Rise of
dielectric strength after arc extinction. This characteristics is very much
sought for a circuit breaker to avoid restriking.
SF6 is colour less, odour less and non toxic gas.
SF6 is an inert gas. So in normal operating condition the metallic parts in
contact with the gas are not corroded. This ensures the life of the breaker
and reduces the need for maintenance.
SF6 has high thermal conductivity which means the heat dissipation
capacity is more. This implies greater current carrying capacity when
surrounded by SF6 .
The gas is quite stable. However it disintegrates to other fluorides of
Sulphur in the presence of arc. but after the extinction of the arc
the SF6 gas is reformed from the decomposition.
SF6 being non-flammable so there is no risk of fire hazard and explosion.
SF6 Circuit Breakers - Advantages
Excellent insulating, arc extinguishing, physical and chemical
properties of SF6 gas is greater advantage of SF6 circuit
The gas is non-inflammable and chemically stable. The
decomposition products are non-explosive i.e, rhere is no risk
of fire or explosion
Electrical clearances are very much reduced because of high
dielectric strength of SF6
Outdoor EHV SF6 circuit breaker has less number of
interrupters per pole in comparison to the air-blast circuit
breaker and minimum oil breaker. Outdoor SF6 circuit breaker
is simple, comparatively cheaper in cost, maintenance free and
SF6 Circuit Breakers - Advantages
Its performance is not affected due to variation in atmospheric
It gives noiseless operation it does not make sound like air-
blast circuit breaker during operation
No frequent contact replacement-arcing time is small owing to
outstanding arc quenching properties of SF6 and therefore
contact erosion is less. Hence contacts do not suffer oxidation
Therefore is no reduction in dielectric strength of SF6 since no
carbon particle is formed during the arcing
Minimum maintenance. The breaker may require maintenance
once in four to ten years
The sealed construction avoids the contamination by moisture,
dust, sand etc. No costly compressed air system is required as
in the case of air blast circuit breaker
SF6 Circuit Breakers - Advantages

Same gas is re-circulated into the circuit thereby reducing the

requirement of SF6 gas.
No over voltage problem. The arc is extinguished at natural
current zero without the current chopping and associated over-
voltages originating across the circuit breaker terminals
The SF6 gas circuit breaker can perform various duties like
clearing short line faults, opening unloaded transmission lines,
capacitor switching, transformer reactor switching etc without
any problem
Ample overload margin. For the same size of the conductors
the current carrying capacity of the SF6 circuit breakers is
about 1.5 times that of the air blast circuit breakers because
superior heat transfer capability of the SF6 gas
SF6 Circuit Breakers - Disadvantages

SF6 Circuit Breaker Diadvantages:

Imperfect joints leading to leakage of the SF6 gas. Continuous
monitoring devices are required
SF6 gas is suffocating to some extent. In case of leakage in the
breaker tank SF6 gas being heavier than the air settles in the
surroundings and may lead to suffocation of the operating personnel.
However it is not poisonous
Arced SF6 gas is poisonous and should not be inhaled
The internal parts need thorough cleaning during periodic
maintenance under clean and dry environment. Dust of Teflon and
sulphides should be removed
Special facilities are required for transportation of gas, transfer of
gas an maintenance of quality of the gas. The deterioration of
quality of gas affects the performance and hence reliability of the
SF6 circuit breaker