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The Power Engineering Education Committee
The Switchgear Committee
IEEE Tutorial on the Vacuum Switchgear

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The history of vacuum switchgear starts in mid prediction and mitigation of switching transients,
1920's but commercial vacuum switching maintenance of vacuum switchgear equipment.
equipment did not appear until the late 1950.
Since then the power industry, electric utility The contributors to this document have
companies and commercial customers alike, generously donated their time to prepare this
applied vacuum switchgear in an increasing tutorial, which, in the present industry climate, is
array of system configurations and schemes. an activity over and above the normal, already
Although about 40 years passed from the hectic schedules of all engineers. I believe that
historical moment of the first vacuum circuit the document we produced will be of value to
breaker the vacuum technology is still considered our professional community.
to be "new" and often misunderstood or
misapplied. Numerous technical papers and a The three tutorial instructors have a combined
few valuable books have been published on the experience of approximately seventy years in
subject of vacuum arcs and vacuum switchgear vacuum technology. Dr. Paul Slade is an
but we still have a way to go. For example, we Engineering Manager for Cutler-
still receive questions on how the electrical HammerIWestinghouse Products vacuum
current can be interrupted in a vacuum "bottle" interrupters manufacturing facility in
where there is nothing to extinguish the arc. Horseheads, N.Y. He is responsible for all
aspects of vacuum interrupter manufacturing for
It was an intention of the contributors to this Cutler-Hammer. Dr. Rene Smeets is managing
Tutorial to assemble a review of the most the R&D activities of KEMA High-Power
important and most practical information on the Laboratory in Arnhem, the Netherlands. He has
subject starting from conceptual designs and been involved in research, testing and
construction of vacuum interrupters to field certification of vacuum switchgear products. Dr.
application and system aspects of the vacuum Mietek Glinkowski is an Advisory Engineer at
switching equipment. This tutorial intends to ABB Electric Systems Technology Institute,
provide such a comprehensive review of the Raleigh, NC, an R&D arm of ABB Power T&D
vacuum technology but due to the natural Company. He is a Technology Team Leader for
limitation of time and space does not address all Switchgear and Insulation Systems. He has been
the details one would need to learn to be active in research, development, and application
considered proficient in this technology. We of vacuum switching equipment for over 18
hope that this tutorial will be a useful reference years.
for engineers and others involved in this field and
spark even more interest in applying this
attractive technology in power systems.
Mietek T. Glinkowski
This document is divided into several sections Editor
covering a broad range of subjects such as: Tutorial Coordinator
manufacturing and quality control of vacuum
interrupters, fundamentals of vacuum arcs,
system applications of vacuum switching
equipment, transients associated with the
interaction of vacuum devices and power
systems, testing of vacuum switchgear, modeling
and simulation of vacuum switching devices,

Chapter 1. General Introduction to Vacuum Switchgear

by M.T. Glinkowski 3

Chapter 2. Design and Manufacture of the Vacuum Interrupter through Understanding

the Vacuum Arc, Continued Materials Development, and Advanced
Vacuum Processing
by P.G. Slade 9

Chapter 3. System Applications of Reclosers, Circuit Breakers, Contactors, and

Mechanical Design of Drives.
by M. T. Glinkowski 19

Chapter 4. Switching of Capacitive Current with Vacuum Switchgear

by R.P.P. Smeets 29

Chapter 5. Switching Inductive Current with Vacuum Switchgear

by R.P.P. Smeets 35

Chapter 6. Testing and Certification of Vacuum Switchgear.

by R.P.P. Smeets 43

Chapter 7. Prediction, Modeling, Simulation, and Mitigation of Switching Transients

in Vacuum Switchgear.
Maintenance and Safety of Vacuum Switchgear.
by M. T. Glinkowski 55

General Introduction to Vacuum Switchgear
M.T. Glinkowski
ABB Electric Systems Technology Institute
Raleigh, NC

correct. The early design of the switch had

Abstract- This introductory section of the several drawbacks primarily due to the
Vacuum Switchgear tutorial provides a deficiencies of the vacuum technology. For
brief history of the vacuum switchgear, an the next 30 years, from 1926 to
overview of the material covered by this approximately 1956 vacuum switchgear
publication and highlights some of the was waiting for the vacuum technology to
fundamental prerequisites leading to the improve so a commercial production of the
knowledge of the vacuum arc, current devices could begin. The main obstacle was
interruption in vacuum, vacuum switchgear in the area of vacuum-pure materials and
devices, and their application in power processing of the vacuum components. The
systems. early switches used common copper,
tungsten, and aluminum, the materials not
INTRODUCTION suitable for high quality vacuum. The glass
envelope was continuously pumped since
The history of vacuum switchgear starts in the glass to metal seals were not tight
mid 1920's when Sorensen and Mendenhall enough and the materials were constantly
at California Institute of Technology degassing. To be commercially attractive
conducted their first experiments in vacuum the interrupters would have to be
by encapsulating two fixed contacts and a permanently sealed and good for
movable C bridge in the glass envelope [1]. maintaining the vacuum for approximately
Although more than 70 years passed there 20 years or so. Much had to be improved in
are striking similarities of the original vacuum technology alone.
design with the present, state-of-the art
commercial switchgear products. The After the vacuum arc attracted significant
original switch was tested at -15 kV, the research interest of the academic and
most popular and widely used voltage level commercial R&D communities it has been
in today's vacuum devices. The Sorensen's discovered that pure contact materials, such
device used a magnetic actuator (a crude as copper and tungsten, were not the best
one) that drove the bridge contact apart performers for the power switching
from the two stationary contacts. Today the applications. When the contacts from these
advances in drive technology allowed oxygen free materials were manufactured
several manufacturers to introduce low they either welded together, due to the
maintenance, low energy magnetic diffusion between atomically clean surfaces
actuators to operate vacuum reclosers, touching each other, or would exhibit
switches, and even circuit breakers. This excessive current chop when the arc current
seemingly is providing an impression that was approaching its natural current zero.
little changed from then to now in this field. There was also a question of the contact
However, this statement is far from being surface conditions after arcing. Much of the

research assumed clean and smooth series combination of interrupters each
surfaces of the electrodes where in fact the rated in the 15-36 kV range.
first arc drawn under current would leave
behind tracking and traces of small craters This situation might be changing. The last
(associated with the cathode spots) on the several years of advances provide more
otherwise pristine surfaces. These would understanding of the practical issues
disturb all the calculations and analytical associated with vacuum switchgear. Also,
predictions. the economics of the vacuum interrupter
manufacturing changed dramatically, the
Several companies at that time, notably devices being less expensive, smaller, and
General Electric and Westinghouse in the more efficient. The traditional boundary
United States, invested significant R&D between the applications of SF6 and
manpower and finances into building the vacuum technologies is changing and the
knowledge and expertise in vacuum arcs, recent inquiries of the environmental
vacuum contacts, and vacuum interrupters. impact of SF6 also play a role in this
These efforts resulted in successful process.
deployment of commercial vacuum circuit
breakers for medium voltage distribution All said, the vacuum switchgear is a mature
systems. The companies were also very technology and still an active industry with
enthusiastic to continue the main research dynamically increasing shares of the world
in extending the applicability of vacuum markets, production volumes, and more
into higher voltage, sub-transmission and efficient, smaller and better products.
transmission systems. Soon they were to be
faced with big disappointment. It turns out SCOPE OF THE TUTORIAL
that the vacuum interrupters are not easily
scalable to higher voltages. Particularly, the This tutorial covers most of the practical
electric field breakdown between two aspects related to the vacuum switchgear as
contacts in vacuum is not proportional to is used by the power utilities and industry.
the contact distance. Although a 0.5 mm It is not intended to provide the complete
contact gap can withstand approximately 15 and thorough scientific knowledge of all the
kV the gap of 50 mm will not handle 1500 aspects related to the vacuum interrupters
kV, or 1.5 MV. The scaling law is not (see [2]-[4] for further study) but it is
linear and other physical processes stand on directed more to practicing engineers who
the way of using long contact gaps for design; procure, install, use, maintain and
higher voltages. troubleshoot the vacuum switchgear. The
tutorial is organized in 5 sections:
The initial excitement diminished and the
vacuum switch production companies General Introduction
concentrated on the distribution products Design and manufacturing of vacuum
with additional applications of low voltage interrupters
vacuum contactors. Today only a handful of System applications of vacuum
companies maintain production line of switching products with mechanical
commercial vacuum switching products design concepts of drives
above 36 kV primarily by employing a

Capacitive and inductive current

switching; standards, and testing of

vacuum interrupters
Prediction, modeling and simulation of
t\f\/V I St." A

switching transients.


This section is divided into several topics :

1. Fundamental definition of transients

2. Closing transients
3. Opening transients
4. Three phase systems and concept of the
first-pole-to-clear State B

1. Fundamental definition of transients

Any electrical switching equipment is

design to close and open an electrical
circuit. This, by definition, requires change Figure 1. Definition of switching transient.
of state of the circuit from one steady-state
condition to another. The change is related 2. Closing transients
to the change of the energy in the circuit
components which in tum produces a Normal closing transients are initiated
transient manifested by surge voltages, when a new current path is established in a
surge currents or both. This is illustrated circuit. For example, closing on an inductor
schematically in Figure 1. All transients in a simple circuit shown in Figure 2 will
involve energy that, in normal course of cause a transient current
events, has to be dissipated safely in the - -I
iTR (t ) = - sin(8 - q7)e L
resistive components of the system (losses).
However, depending on the circuit which is sometimes called a DC offset.
conditions, even small amounts of transient This is in addition to the steady-state,
energy can be large enough to develop power frequency current equal to
sufficiently high transients to impact or
destroy the adjoining equipment. It is the
function of properly designed and applied
switchgear to provide the circuit switching
functions without generating the transients where the power source voltage is defined
levels that cannot be safely managed by the as V = Vm sin(wt + 8)
system components .
and the impedance of the circuit

current zero, is not significantly modified
by the arcing voltage. The exception to this
rule are the current limiting devices.

After the natural current zero the electrical

system imposes the voltage across the
breaker (Transient Recovery Voltage,
v TRV). For a circuit example of opening of
a capacitor bank refer to Figure 3.

Figure 2. Closing on an inductor.

Depending on the angle of the source e the

transient current iTR can vary from 0 to v R
maximum value of Vrr/Z. This fact already
suggests an opportunity for the
management of the closing transients (on an
inductor at least) to synchronize the instant Figure 3. Opening of a capacitor.
of closing with the power frequency voltage
waveform. Since the voltage across the capacitance C
is "trapped" at the current zero and it is
In practical switching devices ideal almost at its peak value due to the 90
transients shown in Figure 2 are most likely lagging with respect to this current the
modified by the prestrikes when the switch transient recovery voltage across the
contacts come close together. The transients breaker is a superposition of voltage of the
associated with prestrikes depend on the source (V) and the capacitor voltage (Vm)
particular switching technology (vacuum, and can reach up to 2*V m-
SF6, ...). The switching prestrikes in TRV = Vm(cos(mt)-l)
vacuum are characterized by short duration,
high frequency currents and successive Circuits similar to Figure 3 can be drawn
voltage collapses. for other opening situations including
inductor switching (Figure 4). In this case
the voltage is leading the current by 90 and
3. Opening transients it is peaking with opposite polarity at the
current zero.
Opening of a switch typically occurs at
random with respect to the power frequency After current zero when the dielectric
current, i.e. the contacts can separate at any strength of the switch during the opening
instant. However, the current interruption operation is below the instantaneous
takes place at the current zero. In typical transient recovery voltage caused by the
medium voltage and high voltage
switchgear the current waveform during the
arcing phase of the switch, after the
physical contact parting and before the

Type of Grounded Ungnded
v L Stress systems systems
peak current 0.816 pu 0.816 pu
to interrupt
Figure 4. Switching off an inductive current peakTRV 1.633 pu 2.45 pu
second and the same as current
system the switch will restrike. In the third phases above 0.707 pu
power systems the restrike events create a TRV 1.41 pu
lot of controversy and there is a great deal
of misconception about them. The terms
restrikes, reignitions, multiple restrikes, etc.
are also confused. All these phenomena are REFERENCES
technology specific, i.e. the vacuum
restriking characteristics are fundamentally [1] R.W. Sorensen, H.E. Mendenhall,
different than SF6, air, etc. The other Vacuum Switching Experiments at the
sections of this tutorial address these issues California Institute of Technology,
specifically for vacuum switchgear. Transactions ofAlEE, 1926, No. 45,
4. Three phase systems and concept of [2] Allan Greenwood, Vacuum Switchgear,
the first-pole-to-clear lEE Power Series 18, Short Run Press Ltd.,
Exter, UK, 1994.
In three phase systems the three poles of the [3] Vacuum Arcs. Theory and Application,
circuit breaker or a switch do not open ed. J.M. Lafferty, John Wiley and Sones,
simultaneously due to simple mechanical New York, 1980.
reasons. Even if they did the three line [4] Circuit Interruption. Theory and
currents are 1200 apart so the interruption in Techniques, ed. T. E. Browne, Jr., Marcel
the three phases is not instantaneous. In Dekker, Inc. New York, 1984.
ungrounded or impedance grounded three
phase systems the switch's pole that
experiences the first current zero after its
contacts opened (first-pole-to-clear) is
stressed the most. The stress levels for the
first pole are summarized in the table

Design And Manufacture Of TIle Vacuum Interrupter Through Understanding The
Vacuum Arc, Continued Materials Development, And Advanced Vacuum Processing

Paul G. Slade

Horseheads, NY 14845

This paper presents a brief overview on the design and manufacture of vacuum interrupters. It is intended to
accompany an IEEE Tutorial on Vacuum Switchgear that will be presented at the 1998 Summer Power Meeting and
the 1999 Winter Power Meeting. The paper shows how an understanding of the vacuum arc leads to contact designs
that permit the use of the vacuum interrupter over a wide range of application. It briefly reviews the development of
suitable contact materials and establishes the link between contact design, material, and application. Finite element
analysis is discussed and its use to develop high voltage designs and magnetic field structures is presented. Finally,
the development of designs for efficient and reliable manufacture is presented. Here emphasis is placed on vacuum
interrupter quality, long service life, and vacuum integrity.

1. INTRODUCTION life of the vacuum interrupter. The shield shown in

Figure 1 is floating, i.e. it is not electrically attached
Figure 1 shows a schematic cross section of a to either the fixed or moving contact assemblies.
typical vacuum interrupter. The fixed contact Table I gives the parameters that must be taken into
assembly consists of a contact which is attached to a account when designing a vacuum interrupter:
copper electrode, this, in turn is brazed to an end
plate. The moving contact assembly is attached to
an end plate by a bellows. When a mechanism is Table I. VaCUU11l Interrupter Design Parameters
attached to the moving electrode, the contacts can be
opened and closed while maintaining a high vacuum Application: Circuit voltage, short
inside the vacuum chamber. The vacuum chamber circuit current, continuous current,
is made from cylinders of high alumina ceramic. electrical and mechanical life, ambient
The ends of the ceramic cylinders are metallized. The Vacuum Arc Mode
This allows the end plates to be brazed to the The Contact Material
ceramics with a high temperature braze. When the High Voltage Requirements
contacts are parted, an arc forms and burns in metal Vacuum Processing Technique
vapor from the contacts. In order to prevent the
inside of the ceramic envelope from being coated
with metal, a shield is positioned around the contacts 2. THE VACUUM ARC
to capture the metal vapor evaporated from the
contacts. This shield prevents the inside surfaces of 2.1 Formation of the Vacuum Arc between
the ceramic from becoming coated with metal vapor, Opening Contact
thus, maintaining their insulating character for the
Bellows Electric Contacts Figure 2 shows the contact opening sequence leading
to arc formation. This sequence is similar for all
contacts opening in any medium for circuit voltages
greater than a few volts. As the closed contact force
is released, the real area of contact decreases. As the
real area of contact becomes small, so the contact
resistance increases, i.e. the heat input into the
contact spot increases. Eventually this spot melts and
a molten metal bridge is drawn between the contacts.
This bridge becomes unstable and ruptures. When
this happens, an arc is formed between the contacts in
the metal vapor from the ruptured molten metal
Metal Vapor Insulating
Condensation Shield Envelope bridge. Initially, the arc that forms is confined to the
region of the bridge rupture and is called the "bridge
Figure 1, Cross Section of a Vacuum Interrupter
spot current density at the surface based on crater
sizes, is 108A/cm2 (3,4).

All the material required to maintain the arc comes

from the cathode spots. Of particular importance is
Contact Molten Bridge Vacuum
the fact that the cathode spots are regions of intense
Metal Bridge Column Arc ionization (4), with most of the material emitted from
t the surface spots moving away from the cathode
region in ionized form. For current levels of several
15 .
hundred amperes, the ion flux leaves the cathode
10 spots with a spatial distribution approximating a
5 cosine law (5). For higher current levels, the ion flux
more closely approximates an isotropic distribution
6). Metal particles also stream away from the cathode
Figure 2, VaCUU11l Arc Initiation Between Opening spot regions, primarily in a direction primarily in a
Contacts direction parallel to the cathode surface(7). For
copper arcs the erosion rate is about10Ag/coulomb
column". The confined arc then forms the true
vacuum arc (1). There are three vacuum arc modes: .CATHODE SPOTS, 108 A/cm 2

1. The diffuse vacuum arc, which always occurs at NEUTRAL PLASMA MID-GAP
currents of less than SOOOA and can be maintained at
higher currents with the application of an axial AT ANODE

magnetic field (see 2.4).
ION VELOCITY tv 106 em/sec
2. The transition vacuum arc (2), which occurs for C A ION ENERGY 20 eV - 40 eV
currents between SOOOA and 8000A.
3. The high current columnar vacuum arc, which v CATHODE EROSION tv 10-4 gm/C
occurs at currents greater than 8000A.

Figure 3, Low Current, Diffuse VaCUU111 Arc

2.2 The Low Current Diffuse
Vacuum Arc and, in common with most materials, the magnitude
of the ion current leaving the cathode spot region is
For currents up to approximately 5 kA, the vacuum about 10% of the arc current (5.6). The ions possess
arc is diffuse (2) and can be characterized by a an energy (in eV) which exceeds the arc voltage and
multiplicity of rapidly moving cathode spots (the can be considered to migrate away from a localized
number of spots being approximately proportional to potential maximum (8) within the cathode spot. For
the current and dependent on the contact material), a copper, the ions are multiply charged (6) and possess
diffuse interelectrode plasma, and a diffuse a mean energy approximately 20 to 40 eV (with
collection of current at the anode; see Figure 3. velocities about 106 cm/s) , whereas, the mean energy
of the neutral metal vapor is less than 1 eV.
These cathode spots are essential to the maintenance
of the discharge. Most of the arc voltage drop The primary cathode spot parameters that influence
occurs across a space-charge sheath at the cathode. successful interruption at current zero are (1) the high
The maximum current conducted by each of the velocity of the ionized metal vapor away from the
multiple cathode spots varies with the electrode cathode surface, which leads to a rapid decrease in
material. The current density at the cathode surface the interelectrode plasma density, and (2) the absence
of an individual cathode spot is extremely high, and of a cathode spot at the new cathode.
this region is therefore one of high power density.
For arcs on copper electrodes, the cathode fall is For certain . arcing conditions, there may be
approximately 18V, the maximum current per significant evaporation from the anode due to the
cathode spot is approximately 100A, and the cathode formation of a single, grossly evaporating anode spot
(9), see Figure 4.

2.3 The High Current Columnar
Vacuum Arc
STARVATION & FORMATION If the current at the instant of contact separation is
ANODE SPACE CHARGE + greater than about SIcA, the bridge rupture leads to

. .-
JOULE HEATING formation of a single, high-vapor-pressure arc
"""'-plume ANODE MELTING column. This arc is a high pressure arc and is similar
to the arc in air. The appearance of the high-current

bunchinl vacuum arc has been extensively studied (11, 12). It
has been shown that, depending on the current level
and contact spacing, the diffuse arc can also form an
(SIMILAR TO ARC IN AIR) anode spot and a columnar arc before going diffuse
again close to current zero. It is possible, however,
to form a constricted column (Figure 5) from the
initial bridge arc, which will stay constricted until
Figure 4, Anode Spot Formation just before current zero. At the highest currents, the
electrode regions of this constricted column exhibit
This anode spot operates near the normal boiling intense activity, with jets of material being ejected
temperature of the anode material and can from the contact faces (11). In spite of this severe
significantly increase the intercontact plasma contact activity, even this arc mode can return to the
density. Furthermore, since the erosion is not diffuse mode just before current zero. Figure 6
distributed, anode spot formation can cause gross shows an example of an arc appearance diagram
melting of the contact. Finally, a plasma jet from developed by Schulman (12).
the anode spot can cause the cathode spots to bunch
together (10), with resulting gross erosion on the a ----------~--
. \
7 \
Anode spots can form from an initially diffuse
vacuum arc. The probability of anode spot
formation increases with increasing contact E
separation, with increasing circuit current and arc 5 4
duration, and with decreasing anode area. ~ J
Furthermore, the probability of spot formation
increases with a decrease in the anode thermal
parameter Tm(KpCo) 1/2 where Tm is the melting
temperature of the anode material and K, p, and C 0 O.......---""'"""""'...........""'"--l"--J............~..a..-..I....A..J.......L......,
are the thermal conductivity, density, and specific o 5 10 15 20 zs JO 35 40 45 50 ss SO 65 70
heat respectively. For small anode areas and long
contact spacing, when most of the ions in the plasma Figure 6, Vacuum Arc Appearance Diagram
stream from the cathode spots are no longer incident
on the anode, the arc voltage increases as a result of 2.4 The High Current Vacuum Arc in
the formation of an anode sheath and the heating of the Presence of an Axial Magnetic Field
anode surface.
One method of creating a diffuse arc at high currents
is to apply an axial magnetic field (13). For a
sufficiently high axial field, the vacuum arc can be
maintained in the diffuse mode to very high currents.
After the rupture of the molten metal bridge, a bridge
column forms, and this arc slowly expands into a
diffuse arc. Once the arc has gone diffuse, the axial
magnetic field allows the arc to remain diffuse. The
c electrons are confined by the magnetic field lines in
the intercontact region and, because of the associated
Figure S, The High Current, ColuIIInar, Vacuum creation of radial electric field, the ions are also
Arc confined to the intercontact region, Figure 7.

During this high-current arcing the diffuse arc The presence of stationary anode spots during the
distributes the arc energy over the whole contact arcing half cycle can adversely affect dielectric
surface and thus prevents gross erosion of the recovery due to (1) associated increases in the
contacts. intercontact plasma and vapor densities, (2) continued
evaporation from the localized hot spot following
current zero, and (3) for the case of refractory
materials such as carbon and tungsten, continued
thermionic emission of electrons following contact
Magnetic polarity reversal.

The factors that influence the design of the vacuum

contact that is used for a specific application are
given in Table II.
Magnetic Table II. Contact Design Parameters
Coli Current and voltage values to be interrupted
The initial molten metal bridge stage forces an
initial columnar arc
Figure 7, The High Current, Diffuse Vacuum Arc Need to minimize the contact erosion, while at
Maintainedby all Axial Magnetic Field the same time providing enough metal vapor to
sustain the arc to a natural current zero
2.5 Vacuum Arc Interruption in The erosion should be uniform across the contact
Alternating Circuits face
Need to minimize local contact heating
All successful vacuum interrupter designs have Need to ensure a diffuse vacuum arc at current
contacts that force the vacuum arc to go diffuse zero
before the current reaches zero (14). At current
zero, the vapor-producing cathode spots extinguish.
The residual vapor and plasma within the Figure 8 shows the three major contact structures that
intercontact region rapidly condense and recombine have been designed for the vacuum interrupter (14),
on both the shield and contact surfaces, and the these are:
original vacuum condition is rapidly approached.
Analysis of the recovery processes directly 1. Butt contact (low current, diffuse arc)
following current zero is complicated by the
nonuniform distribution of the reapplied voltage in 2. Spiral or transverse magnetic field
the recovering arc gap. In the presence of residual (TMF) contact, (high current arc)
plasma, the circuit voltage is impressed across a
narrow space-charge sheath at the new cathode (15). 3. Axial magnetic field (AMF) contact
The ac circuit is successfully interrupted if the (high current arc)
instantaneous dielectric strength of the recovering
intercontact gap always exceeds the circuit reapplied The butt contact has a straight forward design, but is
voltage. Full recovery can be attained within only really effective with low current diffuse arcs (I
microseconds of current zero. This ultimate less than about SOOOA). It has, however been used
breakdown voltage depends on both the spacing and with moderate success for switching currents in the
geometry of the internal shields, and also on the transition arc range. It is widely used for load break
electric field stress on the external envelope of the vacuum interrupters and for contactor interrupters
interrupter. Further, the ultimate breakdown where the maximum interruption current is 4000A.
voltage is critically dependent on the spacing of the For high voltage applications, this contact design has
contacts, the condition of the arced contact surfaces, the advantage that its surface can be machined to a
and the magnitude and duration of the recovery smooth finish. It can also be profiled to give a
voltage. uniform electric field between the contacts.

for high current interruption? The answer is, "It
depends". Figure 9 compares the interruption
performance of TMF and AMF contacts as a function
of contact diameter. For a given contact diameter,
the TMF contact can interrupt a higher current.
This, in turn, means that for a given short circuit
current, a vacuum interrupter using a TMF contact
will have a smaller diameter than one using an AMF
contact. The AMF contact has a more uniform
erosion and the smoother contact gives a better high
voltage performance for vacuum interrupters used in
circuits with voltages greater than 34kV. The more
uniform erosion also gives the AMF contact a
Butt Contact
somewhat longer electrical life. Both contact
Spiral (TMF) Contact structures, however, give an adequate electrical life
Axial Magnetic for the majority of vacuum interrupter applications.
Field (AMF) Contact

Figure 8, The Three Major Contact Structures

.A. CutIer~ Spbl ConIM.t (Tl.IF)
GEC-Aklhom Contmo Cup (TMF)
The spiral contact uses the TMF generated by the '" CutIer~(AMF)
current flowing in the spiral arms to force the 'iii' 60 o Toshtle ( " ' - ' I AMF)

rotation of a high current, columnar, vacuum arc E o T _ SAOE(AMF) estimate

around the contact's periphery. By doing this, all ~ 50

design parameters shown in Table II are satisfied . C 40

1. The fact that a columnar arc is initiated at the 0 30
OJ AMF Contact
time of bridge rupture and is maintained through C
most of the arcing period, is required for this 0. 20

contact structure to work.

a> 10
2. The rapid motion of the columnar arc around 0
the circumference of the contact ensures that : 0 20 40 60 80 100 120
uniform erosion occurs Total Contact Diameter [mm]
erosion is minimized
heating is spread over the whole outer contact Figure 9, Comparison of the Interrupting Ability
region Of TMF and AMF Contacts in a 12kV
3. The lack of localized contact heating and
rapid arc motion also causes the columnar arc to 4. CONTACT MATERIAL
break up as the current goes to zero and this results
in a diffuse arc at current zero. The contact material must operate in the vacuum
environment even in the presence of a high current
The AMF contact has a coil located behind the arc. One of the characteristics of the material is that
contact face. The AMF across the contacts is it should be relatively pure with a low gas content.
created when the circuit current flows through this This requires a special manufacturing environment
coil. The AMF forces the initial bridge column to which is generally proprietary to most vacuum
become a diffuse vacuum arc even at very high interrupter manufacturers. The contact material must
currents (13). Many designs of the coil structure be able to:
have been proposed (14). The strength and
distribution of the AMF is also important design (a) Interrupt the vacuum arc at I = 0
criteria (13). Once the vacuum arc has gone into the with 100% reliability
diffuse mode, it remains in this mode all the way to (b) Have a good dielectric recovery
current zero. Performance
(c) Maintain its high voltage capability for the
Which contact design, the TMF or AMF, is better vacuum interrupter's life

(d) Maintain its mechanical strength poss ible to easil y perform thre e dimens ional analysis,
(e) Have good electrical endurance this is espec ially important when designin g AMF
(t) Have an acceptably low chopping contact structures . Figure 11 shows such an anal ysis.
current This type of analysis has been instrumental in
(g) Resist welding even under (i) the optimizing the spac ing between the vacuum
prestrike are , (ii) the bouncing arc when interrupters components so that the development of
closing and (iii) when closed , the short vacuum interrupters capable of operating in
circuit current which can flow through the transmission circuit s (14 5 kV) becomes poss ible (18).
contacts for a time up to 3 seconds
dura tion.

Three classes of contact material have been

considered for vacuum application ( 17) , these are
shown together with their expected per formance and
the applications where they are used in Table III.


The development of VI designs has been greatly

assisted by the advent of powerful, comparatively
low cost , personal computers, and user-friendly
finite element analysis (FEA) softwar e. This has
enabled the design engineer to routinely perform Figure 10, Two Dimenson FEA for High Voltage
FEA on both electrical and magnetic fields, with the Design
result that changes in design can be rapidly analyzed
and compared to design rules establ ished over the 6. MANUFACTURING
years by empirical methods. Figure 10 shows a
typical two-dimensional potential plot for an The use of the vacuum furnace and the development
experimental vacuum interrupter. As the compu ters of the vacuum exhaust and braze technique (19) are
have become more powerful, it has now become

Table III. Expected Performance of Vacuum Interrupter Contact Materials and Their Potential Application

Circuit EncIunillC.
IllterruptllMl & Curred
1 DI.lectrlc Ral.t._ DI.lectrlc Carry I"ll Choppl"ll 1.ldlftg
R-wer)' to &oelon Streft;tb Capec:lt, Curr-t Reelet._ ~llcat.IOft

~ Wedl_ woltage pclftf

circuit. b....k.r nd a.lte'-

Cr-Cu. addlt.l ...

g . 81 or $II
.. Wed I_ YO Itage cOfttac:tora

... lAw contac:tor nd
_It.c'-, curl'Wlt. <5500 A Wedl_, low cvrl'Wlt

Tap Changera, S.It.eMa

addlt.l ...
.... .. ... ... .... Cofttactora .1 til curr-ta
( 5500 A

Cu al101
g., Cu-Bl
.. . ./ .. ... Day.loped for Mdl .. yoltage
circuit. br..kera. The uterl.1
h.. no. been auperceded by Cr-Cu

poor adequate lood + exce1lent

Bzlarb . units] at mid-gap for
1.5-in . unslotted cont acts. 2-arm AM coils
floating shield interrupter has decreased from 9 to 5.
Finally vacuum interru pter designs are being
developed that allow for a single cycle evacuation and
braze of all components, thus eliminating the time
consuming sub-assembly braze cycle .

For the last 30 years there has been a continued
expansion of our knowledge of the vacuum arc ,
vacuum materials and vacuum processing . This has
led to a continuous improvement in vacuum
interrupter performance. Figure 13 is a good
example of how the envelo pe diameter for the 15 kV,
12kA function has decreased from 182 mm to 50 mm
over this time period. Not only has the vacuum
Figure 11, Three Dimension FEA For Magnetic interrupter performance improved, but also its range
Field Design of application has expanded (23) . The research and
development by leading manufacturers of this product
rapidly becoming the industry standard, replacing has not slowed, and thus , I would expect the
the older tubulation pumping system . The new performance and the application of the vacuum
technique permits the vacuum interrupter to be interrupter to grow (24) .
pumped at braze temperatures (- 800C) which, in
turn, results in more efficient outgassing and
cleaning of the vacuum interrupter's components.
The result is a more robust design . The batch 182
process has been greatly assisted by the advent of
the more compact vacuum interrupter designs which 150
allow a large number of devices to be processed for .:
a given volume of furnace (20) Lower cost and OJ 100
easier to use mass spectrometers can now routinely .~
monitor the vacuum furnace . They can also be used 5
to measure the residual gas remaining in the
interrupter after processing (21, 22). As innovation
in the design of the vacuum interrupter has 1967 1972 1976 1982 1967 1992 1997
continued, the reliability of the vacuum vessel has Year of Introduction
increased. One example is shown in Figurel2,
where the number of critical braze joints for a

Figure 13, Reduction in Size of the 15kV, 12kA



1. P.G. Slade and M.F. Hoyaux, "The Effect of

Electrode Material on the Initial Expansion of an Arc
in Vacuum, " IEEE Trans Parts Hyhrids Package.
Vol. PHP-8, p.35, March 1992.
2. M.B. Schulmanand P.G. Slade, "Sequential Modes of
Drawn Vacuum Arcs Between BUll Contacts for
Currents in the Range 1 kA to 16 kA," IEEE Trans.
Components, Packaging and Manufacturing Tech.,
Vol. 18, No. I, pp. 417-422, March 1995 .
3. LE . Daalder, "Cathode-erosion of Metal Vapor Arcs
Figure 12, Reduction in Braze Joints Leads to in Vacuum , Thesis, University of Eindhoven, The
Greater Vacuum Interrupter Reliability Netherland, 1978.

4. C..W. Kimblin, Erosion and Ionization in the 20. L.T. Falkingham and G.J. Rushton, "Trends in
Cathode Spot Regions of Vacuum Arcs," J. Appl. Vacuum Switching Technology", Proc. 4th Int'l.
Phys. Vol. 44, pp. 3074-3081, July 1973. Conf. Trends in Distribution Switchgear, (lEE
5. J.V.R. Heberlein and D.R. Porto, "The Interaction Publication No. 400, pp. 1-3, Nov. 1994).
of Vacuum Arc Ion Currents with Axial Magnetic 21. D. Gentsch, E. Dullni, "Degassing of Materials
Fields, " IEEE Trans. Plasma Sci. Vol. PS-l1, pp. Inside a Vacuum Interrupter, Measurements by
152-159, September 1983. Residual Gas Analysis and Calculation," Proc. 17th
6. C.W. Kimblin, Vacuum Arc Ion Currents and ISDEIV, IEEE Catalog No. 96CH35939) pp. 300-304,
Electrode Phenomena," Proc. IEEE Vol. 59, pp. July 1996.
5465-555, April 1971. 22. W.P. Li, R.L. Thomas, and P.G. Slade, "Residual
7. D.T. Tuma, C.L. Chen, and D.K. Davies, '''Erosion Gas Analysis of Vacuum Interrupters," Proc. 3rd
Products from the Cathode Spot Region of a Copper International Conference on Electrical Contacts,
Vacuum Arc," J. Appl. Phys. Vol. 49, pp. 3821- Arcs,Apparatus, and their Applications (IC-ECAA),
3821, 1978. Xi'an, P.R. China, pp. 491-498, May, 19-22, 1997.
8. W. D. Davies and H.C. Miller, "Analysis of the 23. P.G. Slade, "Vacuum Interrupters: The New
Electrode Products Emitted by de Arcs in a Vacuum Technology for Switching and Protecting Distribution
Ambient," J. App!. Phys. Vol. 40 pp. 2212-2221, Circuits," IEEE Trans. lAS, Vol. 33, No.6., pp.
April 1969. 1501-1511, Nov.lDec. 1997.
9. H.C. Miller, "A Review of Anode Phenomena in 24. P.G. Slade, "Growth of Vacuum Interrupter
Vacuum Arcs," Contrib. Plasma Phy., Vol. 29, No. Application in Distribution Switchgear" to be
3, pp. 223-249, 1989. presented at the 5th lEE Conference on Trends in
10. C.W. Kimblin, "Anode Voltage Drop and Anode Distribution Switchgear, London, 9-12 Nov. 1998.
Spot Formation in de Vacuum Arcs," J. Appl.
Phys. Vol. 40, pp. 1744-1752, March 1969. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
11. J.V.R. Heberlein and J.G. Gorman, "The High
Current Metal Vapor Arc Column Between I wish to thank Mary Lou Ruvolo for preparing the
Separating Electrodes", IEEE Trans. Plasma Sci. PS- manuscript, and Steve Mayo, Bruce Schulman, and Mike
8; 283-289, 1980. Hursh for producing the figures.
12. M.B. Schulman, "Separation of .Spiral Contacts and
the Motion of Vacuum Arcs at High AC Currents,"
IEEE Trans. Plasma Sci., Vol. 21, No.5, pp. 484-
488, October 1993.
13. M. B. Schulman, P.G. Slade, and J.V.R. Heberlein,
"Effect of an Axial Magnetic Field Upon the
Development of the Vacuum Arc Between Opening
Electric Contacts, " IEEE Trans. Components,
Hybrids and Manufacturing Tech., Vol. 16, No.1,
pp. 180-189, March 1993.
14. P.G. Slade, "The Vacuum Interrupter Contact,"
IEEE rans Components, Packaging and
Manufacturing Tech., Vol. 7, No.1, pp. 25-32,
March 1984.
15. A. Greenwood, Vacuum Switchgear, (pub. lEE,
U.K.), 1994.
16. M. Honma, K. Watanabe, M. Nishihara, and
I. Ohshima, "new Vacuum Arc Control Technology;
SADE," CIRED 97, (lEE Publication No. 438), pp.
1.2.1-1.2.5, June 1997.
17. P. G. Slade, "Advances in Material Development for
High Power Vacuum Interrupter Contact, "IEEE
Trans Components, Packaging and Manufacturing
Technology-Part A, Vol. 17, No.1, pp. 96-106,
March 1994.
18. Wang Zhongyi, Wang Jimei, "Theoretic Research
and Design on High Voltage Bacuum Interrupter
with Long Electrode Distance," Proc. 17th ISDEIV,
(IEEE Catalog No. 96CH35939), pp. 258-262, July
19. A. Bereza, "Method of Sealing and Evacuating
Vacuum Envelopes," U.S. Patent 3,656,225, April
18, 1972, and Re 27,773, August 14, 1973.

System Applications of Reclosers, Circuit Breakers,
Contactors, and Switches. Mechanical Design of Drives.
M.T. Glinkowski
ABB Electric Systems Technology Institute
Raleigh, NC

Vacuum switchgear is a technology that

Abstract- This section addresses the power combines low cost with the high technical
system applications of vacuum switchgear requirements for switching. In low voltage
devices and their functionality. Second part applications the cost of the switch is the
of this section discusses mechanical designs major driving factor for selecting the right
ofdrives and drive systems that are integral technology. Air based technology is very
parts of the switchgear. New concepts and suitable for these kinds of applications. In
future trends in mechanical design are also high voltage transmission systems the
discussed. performance requirements are high. SF6
technology meets these requirements well.
At present, the optimum position for the
INTRODUCTION vacuum based products are in between the
other two.
Vacuum switching products have become
the major technology of the choice in the This situation has been changing in the
distribution systems. Vacuum products are recent years and the switchgear industry
primarily medium voltage (1.5-38 kV) with witnesses more and more attempts to
substantial contribution in the low voltage expand the vacuum technology to both the
sector. There are several reasons for this higher voltage (and current) ratings as well
particular place in the market (see Figure as reduce the cost of the vacuum
1). interrupters. It is the belief of this author
that the vacuum technology has not finished
technical its growth and that new devices will be
requirements becoming available on the commercial
market with both higher ratings and lower



Low Medium High The existing commercial vacuum

Voltage Voltage Voltage
switchgear can be classified into several
Figure 1. Application of vacuum technology in the
power systems market place. circuit breakers

load switches

The list is arranged from the most complex

and highest ratings to the simplest and
smallest. The following photographs
(Figures 2-5) illustrate the typical
realization of the different equipment

Figure 4. Example of a single-phase vacuum load

switch. l-tank housing vacuum interrupter and
mechanism, 2- HV bushings, 3-mounting bracket
and control connections, 4-main terminals.

Figure 2. Example of an indoor metal-clad vacuum

circuit breaker. I-vacuum interrupters, 2-mechanical
drive, 3-track mounting, 4-current carrying
disconnects, 5-insulating pushrod.

Figure 5. Example of a vacuum contactor. (Courtesy


The next two diagrams (Figure 6, 7 and 8)

attempt to illustrate two typical examples of
distribution power systems where vacuum
equipment would be likely used. Figure 6
represents an industrial distribution
network where Figure 7 shows a portion of
a utility radial feeder configuration. Figure
Figure 3. Example of an outdoor vacuum recloser
8 is an example of the generator circuit

breaker application. One has to bear in
mind that although these are representative area substation
examples of power system applications
there is almost an infinite variety of
connections, configurations, and VCBs VCB
voltage/current ratings. Also many utilities r-; cable
have their own, standard, traditional capacitor
practices how they connect their systems. banks
Therefore these examples should be treated radial
as illustrative but not as recommended feeder

Let's look at Figure 6. The main distribution distribution

bus (13.8 kV for example) is fed from the transformers
high voltage grid via a transformer. --. sectionalizer

vacuum vacuum
recloser / sectionalizer
for larger
VCB tap load

Figure 7. Example of a utility overhead distribution

disconnect feeder indicating possible uses of vacuum
switchgear devices.


transfer breaker

r _ __ _._~:::~: ._ 1 MCC

L66-e5~.?~~~~~.J GSU

Figure 6. Example of industrial distribution network. HV switchyard
VCB- vacuum circuit breaker, IM- induction motor,
SM- synchronous motor, MCC-motor control
center. Figure 8. Example of a vacuum circuit breaker used
as a generator breaker for smaller size synchronous
generators. GSU- generator step-up transformer.

The vacuum breaker on top of the diagram taps. In this case the vacuum recloser
protects the large distribution bus (13.8 kV) protects the feeder from temporary faults
and all the loads downstream including the that typically originate from tree limbs,
two transformers 13.8/4.16 kV and 13.8 animal infestation, and lightning. Since
kV/480V . The 13.8/41.6 kV transformer is these faults do not last the recloser is
connected to another vacuum breaker that programmed to operate up to three times in
supplies and protects the 4.16 kV bus. In an attempt to re-energize the circuit.
this example the 4.16 kV bus is made out of Reclosing intervals can be varied and have
two sections, which, under normal to be coordinated with the rest of the
operating conditions, are each fed from its protection devices. Vacuum sectionalizers
own transformer (the second transformer are also utilized for sectionalizing a long
supply is not shown for clarity). There is a line. Function of a sectionalizer is to lock
transfer breaker, also vacuum type, that, out and isolate the section of the line if a
under emergency conditions can tie the two fault is down stream from the sectionalizer.
4.16 kV bus sections together in the event The diagram in Figure 7 also illustrates
when one of the supply chains is lost. another use of vacuum reclosers (1 phase)
that can be used for protecting a longer tap
The 4.16 kV bus feeds a variety of loads, all (lower left), which by itself might be
of them through vacuum circuit breakers or feeding a few minor taps. Reclosers and
vacuum load break switches depending on sectionalizers could be either 3 phase or
number of factors. In our eample, the VCB single phase devices, typically (in case of
on the left supplies the power to a motor the overhead system) mounted on the pole
control center (MCC) which then provides tops. Vacuum circuit breakers are all three
the individual power commands to the phase units.
various induction motors. The motor
control center utilizes vacuum based Figure 8 is another example of utilizing the
contactors. As can be seen from that durability and reliability of vacuum
example all the switchgear needs, with an switchgear. In this case, a vacuum breaker
exception of the disconnectors, are met is used for generator switching as a
with the vacuum based products. generator circuit breaker. For smaller
generating units vacuum devices can handle
Figure 7 represents a possible configuration both the system fed and transformer fed
of a utility overhead system that may serve faults thus providing a good protection for
a mixed customer base, residential and/or the machine and the system. Often for
industrial. A transformer in an area larger units where the cost of the
substation (outdoor) supplies the power to installation is of concern and the machines
the 15 kV bus which in tum connects to are switched on and off frequently (such as
four vacuum circuit breakers. In the in the cases of pumped storage stations or
example two of the breakers are used for for load peaking units) the vacuum breakers
capacitor bank switching for power factor can serve as load switch devices. Although
correction and voltage support. The other in those cases the VCB will not be able to
two breakers will feed the radial protect the network from the faults (this
distribution feeders. Long feeders, like the would have to be done by a separate
one shown in Figure 7 will likely be broken breaker on the HV side of the GSU) it can
into sections and might contain up to 100 provide a convenient way of switching the

normal load currents. The excellent Contact travel is primarily determined by
longevity of vacuum interrupters matches the dielectric withstand capability of the
well the requirements in these cases. breaker. Vacuum has a very high critical
electric field value approaching -30
MECHANICAL DESIGN OF VACUUM kV/mm for gaps of the order of few
SWITCHING DEVICES millimeters. For comparison, the critical
electric field in normal air is an order of
Vacuum interrupters differ significantly in magnitude lower, that is, -3 kV/mm.
their mechanical requirements from the air- Vacuum interrupters require contact gaps of
magnetic or SF6 counterparts. As a result, the order of several millimeters to
most of the mechanical parameters for the withstand 95 kVl1lO kV BlL requirement
mechanical drives for these breakers are for standard 15 kV devices (IEEE C37).
also different. Table 1 lists typical Experimental devices with shorter contact
parameters of distribution circuit breakers gaps, of the order of 3 mm, have been
using vacuum interrupters and compares shown to work satisfactory in 15 kV
them with the SF6 and air magnetic applications.

Mechanical characteristics of vacuum circuit
kers as compared to t h e ot h er tee hnolozi
no ogles
Mechanical VCB SF6 and air-
parameter magnetic
contact travel small 8-12 mm larger (20-50
opening speed moderate -I mls higher -2m1s or
closing speed moderate -Lm/s higher -2m1s or
energy required low, only a higher energy
for opening function of the required to move
moving contact the contact and
mass and other develop or

moving parts, to overcome a gas STATIONARY COIfrACT
overcome pressure build-
vacuum pressure, up
additional small
wipe spring
energy required low, only low, only
for closing function of the function of the
moving contact moving contact
mass and other mass and other
moving parts moving parts 11 ClOSING SPRING

contact force required to small, to provide

overcome low R
Figure 9. Example of the operating mechanism of
contact popping, connection
wipe spring vacuum circuit breaker
provides this (Courtesy ofABB Power T&D,/nc.)

Vacuum contacts are characterized by empirical factor between 0.1 and 0.3, H is a
relatively low weight therefore relatively material hardness, and F is a contact force.
low energy is required to move the contacts Note that the contact resistance does not
open and close. This simplifies the design depend on the total surface of the contact so
of the mechanism and allows for smaller larger contacts do not necessarily perform
and lighter opening and closing springs and better under thermal considerations than the
smaller and lighter charging motors (see smaller ones, a common misconception.
Figure 9). Typical values for contact resistance of
vacuum interrupters used for circuit
breakers are between 2 JlQ to 20 f.l Q .
Indirectly, other linkages and levers can
also be manufactured with less materials
and using simpler tooling. The low energy In summary, in order to assure good contact
requirement is also beneficial for increasing for power vacuum interrupters contact
the reliability of the drive and prolonging forces should be of the order of 3000 N-
its useful mechanical drive. The experience 6000 N depending on the continuous
shows that the vacuum circuit breaker current rating of the equipment.
drives require less maintenance and have
significantly fewer parts than other breaker
types. Typically the total energy per Another important consideration for the
operation is of the order of 300-400 J. mechanical design of vacuum switching
devices is welding. The contacts of the
interrupter are extremely clean to the last
Since the vacuum interrupter contacts are several hundreds of atomic layers! This is
typically flat, disc shaped elements the in contrast to the metal surfaces in air, for
electrical contact between them is secured example, where all surfaces are
by the contact force produced by a separate immediately coated with numerous layers
spring, called either a wipe spring or a of oxides and other gases from the ambient.
contact spring. The physical phenomena of This means that in vacuum the actual
electrical contacts indicate that two flat crystal structures of the contact faces are
parallel surfaces typically contain only 3-5 exposed and when the two such contacts
actual microscopic points that are able to mate on closing the diffusion of particles
conduct electrical current. The current takes place and the contacts weld. This
flowing between the contacts in the closed "cold" weld has to be broken in order to
state will create heat due to the contact open the switch. The wipe spring, which
resistance (I2R losses). This resistance is an also provides the contact force mentioned
inverse square root function of the contact above, assists very well in this task (Figure
force. The relationship for the contact 10).
resistance also includes material hardness
and electrical resistivity of the contact

R = P ~S1rH (1)
c 2 F
where Rc is contact resistance, p is
electrical resistivity of the material, Sis an

to vacuum interrupter interrupters are of the order of 30-40
(mass Ml, vel. vl=O) kg*m/s.

~ The modem trend in the mechanical drives

for vacuum switchgear is to utilize the
magnetic actuators that can directly (with
contact spring no or minimum mechanical linkages)
provide the required motion characteristics
to the vacuum interrupter contacts. Some
products based on this technology m:e
already commercially available. It IS
predicted that the long term development in
~ the drives will be in the intelligent control
of the magnetic actuators to modify or
from the drive (mass M2, vel. v2)
customize the mechanical characteristics of
Figure 10. Schematics of the contact (wipe) spring a given drive design for various vacuum
for vacuum interrupters during opening (shown switchgear applications in power systems.
during early stage of opening).


During the early phase of opening the
tension of the contact spring helps
accelerate the drive shaft (lower shaft in
Vacuum devices have also unique thermal
Figure 10). At the same time the spring
characteristics. The devices are carefully
elongates until finally the cup-shaped end
designed to meet the requirements of the
of the drive shaft hits the flat end of the
continuous current. Figure 11 illustrates an
interrupter shaft (upper shaft). During the
example of a main current carrying path of
impact the momentum will be exchanged as
a draw-out type metal-clad circuit breaker.
a consequence of the conservation
The main current leads (2a) connect to the
principle. If we denote the mass of the total
bushings of the VCB enclosure (not shown)
lower moving parts as M 2 with the
via spring-loaded tulip contacts (3) that
respective velocity at the instant of the
provide convenient connection to the MV
impact as V2 and the upper moving parts
bus. The fixed contact (1a) is clamped to
(including the interrupter moving contact)
the lead via copper members (2b). The
as M I (with VI equal to zero) the final
moving contact (1b) is connected to the
velocity after impact, which is the initial
flexible connector (shunt) (4). The flex
opening velocity of the contact, can be
connector is sometimes made out of a
determined as
number of thin flat sheets of cooper
sandwiched together and bolted.
M 2v2
v=-- -- (2)
(M] +M 2 ) The elements (2a) and (2b) also play an
important role acting as heat sinks for the
Contact welds are sometimes defined as the thermal 12R losses incurred inside the
product of M and v required to break them. interrupter from the contact resistance R e.
The typical numbers for power vacuum The absence of gas inside the bottle
eliminates convection as a possible

mechanism for heat removal. Instead, the
heat is removed from the electrode area
only by radiation or conduction. Since the
la radiation heat is proportional to - T4 (T-
temperature) this means of cooling is not
Ib effective for moderate temperatures of
-100C or so found in the practical power
switchgear apparatus. What remains is the
conduction of heat via contact stems to the
outside of the interrupter. For higher
continuous current ratings (3000 A, 4000
Figure 11. Vacuumcircuit breaker pole assembly A, and more) additional heat sinks and
showingmain current carryingparts. 1a-stationary forced air fans are often mounted at the
contact of vacuuminterrupter, 1b- movingcontact of
vacuuminterrupter, 2a,b- current carrying support
members, 3- disconnects, 4- flexibleconnection.


R.P.P. Smeets, Member, IEEE

KEMA High -Power Laboratory
Arnhem , the Netherlands
breaker-voltage (U AB) are shown.
Capacitive current arises in a number of situations:
1. Current that is drawn by overhead lines the load of Because the interruption of (the small) capacitive current is
which is not connected (unloaded lines). This current not a severe duty in itself, the current can easily be inter-
is usually very small (in the order of 10 A). rupted when the contact distance is small , or in other
2. Current that is drawn by unloaded cables. The value of words , at short arcing times. This is in contrast to the inter-
this current depends much on the length of the con- ruption of short-circuit current, in which case a (sometimes
nected cable circuits. As an order of magnitude values considerable) minimum contact distance (or minimum
of several tens of amperes are normally encountered. arcing time) is necessary to accomplish the interruption.
3. Current drawn by capacitor banks used for voltage A small contact distance at interruption of current implies
stability reasons and/or power factor correction. This that the full contact distance in open position is not yet
current is usually much higher than in the situations reached when the maximum of recovery voltage is stress-
above (a few hundred of amperes). ing the circuit breaker. Therefore, a breakdown of the
contact gap can occur. Such a breakdown - due to the full 2
pu recovery voltage over the not yet fully opened contact
gap - is commonly called "restrike", provided that the
breakdown occurs later than 1/4 of the power frequency
period. In case the breakdown occurs earlier than 1/4
period, the breakdown is called "reignition".

Restrikes are highly unwanted, because they can generate

overvoltages and produce steep voltage fronts that can
influence secondary parts of the installation , if not properly
designed from an EMC point of view . Also, damage to the
Fig. 1: Circuit for capacitive switch ing. breaker is not excluded, although SF 6 breakers (puncture of
the nozzle) are more prone to damage by restrike events
than vacuum breakers.
In all these cases, after interruption of the current (which in
all cases is a very easy duty thanks to the low value of
It is the occurrence of such restrikes, that makes capacitive
current to be interrupted), the capacitive load is left isolated
switching a topic that deserves attention, and all capacitive
with a trapped voltage of the maximum system voltage
switching tests are mainly aimed at verifying the ability of
peak value (l pu = per unit = ..J2/..J3*system voltage). After
switchgear to switch off a capacitive current without pro-
one loop of power system frequency , the load side still
ducing restrikes. The issue of restrike has gained more
remains at this 1 pu voltage, while the source side of the
weight recently, since the revised version of the important
breaker exactly reversed its polarity. This adds up to 2 pu
international standard IEC 56 will prescribe a more severe
of recovery voltage over the breaker.
verification of the absence of restrikes than in the past (see
ch. 3) . Also, a breaker can no longer be claimed to be
Fig. 1 gives the single-phase diagram. Herein, roLg
restrike-free after having passed a (limited) number of tests
1/(roCg) because the nature of the load is capacitive. In fig.
- as is the case in the present IEC 56 standard.
2, the basic waveshapes of load- (U BN) , sourrce- (U AN) and
i (=-<)

In the case of a restrike, high -frequency currents result , due

to the discharge of the capacitive load (Cg in fig. I) over
the equivalent circuit inductance Lk. Also current
components of higher frequency are present Since vacuum
interrupters have an excellent capability to interrupt such a
high-frequency current, it is probable that after only a few
loops this current is interrupted, giving rise to the situation
as depicted in fig. 3. Does the vacuum interrupter interrupt
the high-frequency current after an odd number of loops,
Fig. 2: Interruption of capacitive current.

than the trapped voltage on the capacrtrve load IS The action of the arc that follows at the opening of the
augmented to 3 pu (see fig. 3) yielding a voltage of 4 pu contact is beneficial, as it burns away or remelts (parts) of
these protrusions. In cases though of no arc at all (cold
opening) or small current interruption, such an electric
smoothening or polishing of the contacts fails to appear
degrading the insulation of the gap due to the presence of
remnants of the energizing operation.

Important factors thus are:

rate of rise (or frequency) of current
magnitude of inrush current
duration of pre-arcing period (depending on system
Interruption of 60 restrike Inlefr\lPtionol
voltage and state of the vacuum interrupters'
Hzcurrent Hf current
contacts) . By applying synchronous switching
Fig. 3: ResIrike at capacitiveswitching. (closing the interrupter at sufficient velocity and at
system voltage minimum) the prestrike can be
over the interrupter one loop of power frequency current greatly reduced.
later. New restrike near this instant causes a new reignition interrupted current
current, but now with twice the amplitude, leaving now 5 frequency of operation
pu trapped on the load capacitor when again interrupted
after an odd number of loops . In fig. 4, a comparison is made of various current
In theory, very large overvoltages can be generated, but waveshapes that stress the contact system during the pre-
thanks to damping and leakage of charge the situation is strike period .
less dramatic in real networks.
This scenario of "voltage escalation", though very impro- 35
short-circuit current (25kA)
bable to occur exactly along the line of sequences as 30
sketched above, is more likely to occur in the application of 25
vacuum interrupters than with interrupters based on other 20
technologies (oil, SF 6) , due to the vacuum interrupters'
15 "-
excellent ability to interrupt high-frequency current. asyrrrretrcal
short-<:ircutt current
For this reason, "vacuum" is often termed a hard inter- ~
rupter, in contrast to the "softer" SF6 and oil interrupters. "~ 5

single bank
-10 nrush current

Switching of capacitor banks is the most severe capacitive -15 back-to-bac

switching duty for distribution systems . Unlike the -20
inrush curren

switching of cables and overhead lines, the switching of 0 2 time(ms)

capacitor banks is often a daily duty, because of the rapid

varying need of reactive power. This is confirmed in a Fig. 4: Current during pre-strike in variouscases.
recent world-wide enquiry of CIGRE WGI3.04, showing a
90 percentile at 700 operations per year. Another result of
the enquiry is that the 90 percentile of capacitor bank A realistic case (of a US utility) is treated with an example
current is 420 A. of a 14.4 MVAr capacitor bank connected to a 60 Hz
system of 34.5 kV at a location of 1 GVA of short-circuit
a. Energizing capacitor banks power.

Energizing a capacitor bank will cause large transient This situation is characterized by the following quantities:
current - the so called inrush current - to flow starting at the Q = 14.4 MVAr
moment of breakdown (pre-strike) of the approaching con- U = 34.5 kV
tacts. This current will flow until galvanic touch of the Ps = 1 GVA
contacts causing a thermal stress of the contacts in vacuum f= 60 Hz
that is depending on the rate of change (dildt) of this and the derived quantities:
current. At low values of di/dt the inrush current will not
reach a high value during the relatively short period of capacitive current I, =241 A
restrike (order of a ms normally in vacuum) . Is the value capacitance of bank C = 32.1 uF
of dildt high, then a high current corresponding to a high short-circuit current Ik = 16.7 kA
arcing energy is present between the closing contacts, short-circuit inductance L k =3.2 mH, that are derived with
easily leading to welding of the (very clean) vacuum con- the following equations:
tacts. I =_Q-
In most cases the opening mechanism is designed to break c U.J3
such a weld, but sharp metallic protrusions, always remain.
u l with Or the peak value of the phase voltage (in grounded
I=~ L =---- systems).
k U.Jj k 2 '1r .j .P,
This maximum value will occur at energizing of the bank at
voltage maximum, the most unfavourable situation. This
will result in a voltage sag on the main busbar because the
low impedance of the capacitor bank during the switching
to load temporarily lowers the bus voltage. The amount of this
voltage sag (M can be estimated with:

. P777A. IL__ capacitor banks

S2~~ For the same reason, an overvoltage arises (of 1.97 pu in

Fig. 5: Equivalent diagram for capacitor bank switching.
the undamped case) that propagates through the system and
can cause undesired effects, such as the excitation of
natural frequencies formed by (cable) capacitances and
Further, we assume that the inherent inductance of the bank transformer inductance (the inductance associated with the
La = lOOIlH. leakage flux).
Two situations are analysed now: the energizing of a single The associated waveshapes (simulated) are shown in fig. 7.
bank ("single bank" situation) and the situation where two The application of synchronous switching (energizing all
identical banks are present, and one bank is energized phases on system voltage zero crossing) can reduce the
while the other is in service ("back-to-back" situation). effects of the inrush current greatly . For distribution
These situations are outlined in fig. 5. application, this solution is not wide spread yet, but with
the advent of magnetic actuators for vacuum switchgear,
i. Single bank situation (St is closed while Sz remains open , this situation may change.
see fig. 5).
The maximum peak value of the inrush current (Iin) and the ii. Back-to-back situation (S, is closed with closed Sz; see
frequency (fin) is now given by (no damping assumed): fig. 5).
In this situation, one bank is energized while one (or more)
I, =U f A ~ '
L, +Lo
=2.78kA pk
banks are in service already . Now , at energizing, the inrush
current is almost totally supplied by the neighbouring
1 bank(s), since Lk La.
f = = 489Hz
r 2'1r ' ~C . (Lk + Lo )
Inrush current s ingle bank.

Inrush current back-to-back .

1; V

C> 10 20 30 40
tme (rro)
C> ' 0 20 30 40
time (rns )


1 ,
e nerglzaUon ,

C> 10 20 30 40
- bus - - -bank
tiTe(ms }

C> "16 24 32 4C
time (ms) Fig. 7: Inrush current (top) and voltages (bottom) at switching of
single capacitors banks .
Fig. 6: Inrush current (top) and voltages (bottom) at back-to-back
switching of capacitor banks .

The disadvantage is that the inrush current is much larger occurs in an oscillatory manner, because of parasitic
and has a higher frequency : capacitances at the source side (C s in fig. I) . The
occurrence of the jump is important, because it constitutes

A ~
the initial part of the (power frequency) 1 - cosine transient
I =U . --=8 .0kA. recovery voltage (see fig. 8) and prevents that current is
r f 4 .L pk
o interrupted after very short arcing times. In this way, reco-
I very voltage stress at small gap length is avoided too,
making clear that voltage jump has a beneficial effect in or-
der to reduce the risk of restrike.
This is illustrated in fig. 8, where the (theoretical recovery)
valid for a grounded network and only two banks available.
of the dotted line would lead to restrike (at the point
This high value leads to a considerable stress on the circuit
marked 'restrike' ) if the voltage jump would not prevent
breakers. Vacuum interrupters should be qualified for this
the recovery curve to intersect with the I-cos TRVat a
special switching duty, and special tests are designed to
higher and hazardous voltage. The presence of the voltage
verify the back-to-back switching capability.
jump causes merely a reignition (see fig . 8) causing one
The advantage of the back-to-back configuration is that
more loop of power frequency current to flow allowing the
only a small portion (proportional to the ratio LoILk) is
contacts to reach a sufficient distance to withstand the
supplied by the source circuit, reducing the voltage trans-
recovery voltage .
ient on the bus considerably, with respect to the single bank
case. Representative wave shapes are illustrated in fig . 6.
The voltage jump ( D) is directly related to the local short-
circuit power (P.) and the reactive power of the load (Q) in
The situation is even worse, when energizing occurs in
the following way:
trapped voltage condition remaining after disconnecting the
bank . Therefore, methods to automatically discharge the 5U=-
bank within a reasonable time are normally applied. P,
From this, it is clear that in weak locations of the network -
In both cases (single bank and back-to-back) the vacuum low values of P s - where capacitor banks are installed
interrupter may interrupt the inrush current. In the above usually, the voltage jump can play an important role in
situation, the di/dt to be interrupted has a maximum value reducing restrikes.
of di/dt = 2 frIr = 140 NilS, a value within the range of the For vacuum interrupters, having an inherent very fast re-
interrupting capability of many vacuum interrupters (under covery during the period that the voltage jumps exists, the
high-frequency current conditions). effect of a considerable voltage jump is less advantageous
then for gas filled circuit breakers.
This is of less concern, since the maximum resulting
overvoltage can never be higher than the system voltage.

restrike / /....
b. De-energizing capacitor banks.
~ /

Due to the relatively high capacitive current - but still far l

/ I
lower than the rated short-circuit current - de-energizing a
capacitor bank is generally without problems. Generally,
the very fast recoveries of voltage withstand of vacuum ,/
./ 1i
interrupters leads to a low probability of restrikes. On the
theoretical recovery curve ,'~/ i
other hand , when a restrike occurs, the capability of
~/ I
/1 i
interrupting high di/dt currents generally leads to voltage // I
escalation. In addition, the arc resistance is very low and / / i
little damping is introduced in the system by the /" : / i

interrupter. Therefore, it is of great importance for a / / !

vacuum breaking device to have a very low probability of /" I/ i:
restrike. / /
In the case of a restrike, the situation is equal as described / /
above for the energizing, with the ' notable difference that ./ / 1 cos TRV
the peak value of the restrike current is considerably higher ./ /
due to the higher (up to 2 times) voltage that drives the reignnion --..,..( /

inrush current (see figs . 6 and 7) . ./ I~!:': ---- vonage jump


At shedding a capacitive load, the voltage at source side of Fig. 8: Capacitive recovery voltage and voltage jump.
the circuit breaker (DAN, see fig . 1) jumps to a slightly
lower value than under load conditions. This is usually
called 'voltage regulation' or 'voltage jump' . This jump

R.P.P. Smeets , Member, IEEE
KEMA High-Power Laboratory
Arnhem, the Netherlands


After interruption, the energies stored in Land C start to
Current chopping is the interruption of an AC current shortly oscillate causing in a certain moment the total energy E, to be
before natural (sinusoidal) current zero . As a result, current present in the capacitance only, leading to a voltage 0, over
will be not interrupted at i = 0 but at i = 10 with 10 the the load:
chopping current.
0 ~
2 2 2
E r =.!.C.U
2 (=.!.
2 C U +.!..L/
For the circuit to be interrupted, under certain conditions
current chopping can cause overvoltages. This can easily be
~ ~U~ 2 + CL '/ o2 = ~~U 2 + ( Zo'/o)\2
understood by realising that in the circuit to be interrupted, a
magnetic energy Y2LI0 2 will remain trapped, with L the with Zo the surge impedance of the load characterising the
inductance of that circuit. circuit's response to switching transients.
The essential equivalent circuit is given in fig. 1.
Thi s allows a simple estimation of the overvoltage produced
by a chopping vacuum interrupter.
After interruption of the current the residual energy (E, )
stored in the load (RLC circuit in fig. I ) is present in the load
u,+ U ~
inductance (L) and in the (parasitic) capacitance (C), charged u,
to the crest voltage 0 of the source u(t) in the (worst) case the
interrupted current is purely inductive.

Fig. 2: Transient voltages due to current chopping .

Fig. 2 shows the wave shapes of the transient recovery voltage
(TRV) over the interrupter (UAB of fig. 2), and the voltage
over the load (UBN of fig. 2).
Fig. I : Basic circuit for switching .
As can be seen, the maximum load voltage 0, is determined
both by the circuit's surge impedance as well as by the
interrupter's chopping level 10 , This is a good example of how
both circuit and interrupter (thus the arc) determine essential
switching phenomena like overvoltage generation that the
user of switching material is directly aware of.

Current chopping has raised great concern in the past,

because in the early days of vacuum interrupters, the
interrupter contacts were made of pure copper. This material
can produce fairly high chopping levels (order 20 A).
Nowadays, the mostly used CuCr contacts produce chopping
current values in the order of 3 A. Specially designed "low
surge" materials further reduce these value down to I A or
It must be realised, however, that the chopping current has a
strongly statistical nature, so that in applications with high

switching frequency (notably contactors) the incidental
occurrence of much higher chopping currents than the
'nominal' ones is likely.
'l! ~ r
:):::[.;;;; i ~
o '00 200

',:D:il JiJ
=;jr . : ;
o . ,I
: "looP
I: :
0 '00 200

Fig. 4: Current chopping . Upper trace: current (A), lower: arc voltage
(V); time in us .

a single cathode spot carrying all the current. The anode

Fig. 3: Transient recovery voltages after Inductive load merely functions as a charge collector, while the
switching with (drawn) and without current chopping . interelectrode zone is essentially free of net charge .

The cathode spot moves erratically over the cathode surface,

In fig. 3 two realistic cases are drawn, the dotted TRV with a thereby creating small (order 10 urn) craters in its path.
negligible chopping level and the drawn line with a 6 A Experiments clearly show that the formation time of craters is
chopping level. Note that due to current chopping, the in the ns region and in a very rapid succession. These craters
polarity of the initial voltage that arises over the vacuum gap have to produce the metal vapour, essential to the arc's
just following interruption has the same polarity as the existence .
current. The first peak of TRV - with the same polarity as the
arc voltage is called "suppression peak" . Because only one single cathode spot has to maintain the arc
by producing sufficient "arcing medium", the efficiency of
From a practical point of view, current chopping is relevant producing the successive series of emission craters is crucial
at the interruption of small inductive current such as: for the survival of the arc as a whole. Lack of being able to
create craters at a sufficient rate causes instability of the arc,
magnetising current of transformers (approx . 0.2 % of manifesting through steep (few kv/us) and high (order
the rated current). Though chopping might occur at several 100 V) voltage spikes in the arc voltage (few tens of
maximum current, problems normally do not occur. The V in stable condition) due to space charges in the plasma.
unlikely event of interrupting a transformer inrush Observation of the arc voltage during such a period of low
current may be hazardous current shows a large number of such voltage spikes, the
inductively loaded transformers. This is a special case frequency of occurrence of which drastically increases as
where shunt reactors are connected to the tertiary current is reduced further (see fig. 4). It is assumed that these
windings of HV transformers. voltage spikes are manifestations of the cathode spot's
starting current of motors. In this case, current is inability to create emission craters at a sufficient rate [2]. The
interrupted during the starting of a motor, when the occurrence, amplitude and rise time of these spikes are
current is inductive. In some cases (see further) this case depending on the contact material and arc current; the
needs special attention. duration depends primarily on the gap length .

Detailed information on these switching duties can be The value of the chopping current is not a constant, but
obtained from a series of extensive reports of Study depends on the circuit and on the contact material. The
Committee 13.02 of CIGRE [1], though a large part of the addition of capacitance over the interrupter limits the
study is on high-voltage circuit breakers . steepness of the arc voltage spikes. Since these spikes may
Under normal operation, with a high power factor, current probably be considered as a restoring mechanism after
chopping also occurs , but the chopping overvoltage is not instability in the process of crater formation and renewal,
added to the maximum source voltage (at current zero, source capacitance over the arc increases the chopping level, which
voltage UAN is also small), and creates no difficulty at all. is confirmed experimentally [3]. On the other hand, added
capacitance reduces the circuit's surge impedance, thus
reducing the overvoltage generating effect of current
Series inductance has an opposite effect: it allows a steeper
In the low current range (few tens of A) near AC current zero rise of voltage at discontinuity of the arc current. A tendency
when current chopping is relevant , the vacuum arc consists of of the arc to chop is reacted upon by the circuit by a higher

voltage (L dildt), that may help to overcome arc instability or Due to the excellent interrupting capacity of vacuum
may even reignite the arc. interrupters, this current is likely to be interrupted (already at
From the material point of view, CuCr has been very the first current zero in the case of the first two reignitions in
successful in reducing the chopping level to acceptable fig. 6 middle), causing a higher and steeper TRV to appear.
values for normal applications. The precise effect of this This steadily increasing voltage is called "voltage esca-
material on chopping current is not clarified yet in a lation". By this mechanism, a higher voltage than without
satisfactory way. At present, CuCr is an excellent reignition can be built up.
compromise between the requirements of high current
interruption capability, low chopping level and low contact Once set in motion, the repetition of ever higher voltage-rise
welding tendency (eg. after energizing capacitor banks). and -breakdown stresses the insulation of windings near the
terminals by initiating steep fronted surges in power
For special purposes low-surge vacuum interrupters have distribution systems, unnoticed by the user [4]. This is
been developed that have been optimised to an extremely low because steep voltage surges do not distribute over the
chopping current lA). In such class of interrupters, contact winding uniformly, but tend to stress the turns most closely
material is used that is able to keep the low-current arc's to the terminal where the voltage surge enters the winding.
thermal energy concentrated in a small area. This is done by This train of events, called "multiple reignition" (MR) - see
using compound materials in which highly conducting fig. 6, upper oscillogram - is especially hazardous for motors
material (like Ag) is embedded in poorly conducting frame in the voltage range of few kV [5].
(like WC). By this, less thermal energy is lost through heat Transformers, having the requirement to be able to withstand
conduction, since the poorly conducting material acts as a lightning impulse voltages, are much less at risk.
heat barrier around the electrically active zone where the
(last) cathode spot is active. At increasing content of the Although the interruption of the power frequency current in
poor-thermal conductive component, the chopping current is such case is successful, the interruption can be termed being
reduced further. The disadvantage of these special materials of a low quality due to the stresses it puts to the system as a
is the (much) lower recovery voltage characteristic. whole. Also, at energizing of equipment, steep fronted surges
naturally arise. These surges, though smaller in steepness,
occur at every closing operation [6].
CURRENT CHOPPING) The associated reignition current - see fig. 6 middle oscillo-
gram - is partly coupled - both inductively and capacitively -
Generally, the use of vacuum switchgear is without any into neighbouring phases, where interruption of the power
problem related to overvoltage generation. Only with special frequency current far from the natural zero can result - see
circuit conditions, overvoltages can not be excluded fig. 6 lower oscillogram. In this case, the overvoltage magni-
completely. Such overvoltages may become hazardous when tude can be estimated as in the case of "conventional" current
switching off inductive loads - most notably locked motors or chopping, but now the chopping current level (10) has a value
unloaded transformers - combined with unfavourable circuit of several tens to hundred of A. This is called "virtual
conditions. current chopping" and often leads to unacceptably high
overvoltages, practically always leading to damage provided
In such conditions, usually following a very short arcing no proper protection measures are taken.
time, the transient recovery voltage (TRV) that stresses the In figure 6, measured examples of multiple reignition and
gap immediately after interruption exceeds the momentary virtual current chopping are shown.
breakdown voltage of the opening gap.
Figure 7 shows a more realistic situation in the high-power
Reignition follows, causing a high- frequency current laboratory, of a vacuum interrupter interrupting 20 A as-
(typically several hundreds of kHz) to flow - see fig. 6 middle sociated with virtual current chopping in two phases. In this
oscillogram. This current arises due to the discharge of the case, the small gap length of these phases works fortunate in
local capacitances (mostly cables) at both sides of the limiting the overvoltages. A number of high-frequency cur-
interrupter (Ck and C g in fig. 5) over the parasitic inductance rent interruptions, accompanied by steep-fronted reignitions
(Lp) . are the consequence.

It is important to realize that, in contrast to "conventional"

current chopping, multiple reignition and virtual current
chopping only occur in rare cases.
The probability of occurrence of both multiple reignition and
virtual current chopping is strongly dependent on parameters
of circuit and interrupter. Circuit parameters that are
N influential are motor power, bus bar configuration, cable type
Fig. 5: Basic circuit diagram of multiple reignition and virtual and -length, system voltage and number of connected cables.
current chopping.

The relevant interrupter parameters are contact separation
velocity, dielectric recovery, current chopping level and high-
frequency current interruption ability.


[1] Literature on small inductive current switching can be found in Electra

under the general title "Interruption of small inductive currents":
chapters 1 and 2, Electra 72, 1980, pp.73-103
chapter 3A, Electra 75, 1981
chapter 3B, Electra 95, 1984, pp.31-45
chapter 4A, "Reactor switching, general and specific theory", Electra
101, 1985,pp. 13-39
chapter 4A, "Reactor switching, limitation of overvoltage and testing",
Electra 113, 1987, pp. 52-74
chapter 5.1, "Switching of unloaded transformers, basic theory and
single phase transformer interruption without reignitions", Electra 133,
1989, pp 79-107
chapter 5.2, "Switching of unloaded transformers, three-phase
transformer interruption, reignition phenomena, test results and
conclusions', Electra 134, 1989, pp 23-44
chapter 6, "switching of reactor loaded transformers", Electra 138,
1991, pp. 51-64

[2] R.P.P. Smeets, "The origin of current chopping", IEEE Trans. on Plasma
Sci., Vol. 17, No.2, 1989

[3] M. Murano, S. Yanabu, H.. Ohashi, Current-chopping phenomena of

medium voltage circuit-breakers", IEEE Trans. Pow. App. Syst.,Vol. 96, pp.
243, 1977

[4] M. Carabok, R. Jackson, "An investigation into plant insulation failures

associated with frequent operated vacuum circuit-breakers", CIRED 1.09.1,

[5] J.P. Eichenberg, H. Hennenfent, L. Liljestrand, "Multiple Re-Strikes

Phenomenon when Using Vacuum Circuit Breakers to Strat Refiner Motors",
Annual Pulp and Paper Techn.Conf., 1998, pp. 266-273

[6] E. Colombo, G. Costa, L. Picaretta, "Results of an investigation on the

overvoltages due to a vacuum circuit-breaker when switching an HV motor",
IEEE Trans. on Power. Del., vol. PWD-3 no. 1, (1988), pp. 205

Voltage escalation: Ka'r---.----'!..--""!"""----_-.....-_--r---r---'!..-........,.
transient recovery
! ! I
voltage over the ~~--.-t~~-.
vacuum interrupter I : I I .

Note the three
: :

22e2le24e2se2M218 .... _ISa ....

u .. C.'ONAOJ

Multiple reignition: i i

reignition current
through the I





! I

interrupter. Note
the increasing
.....1!.. ji-----l------j---"--r-j------j--


I I: :::

amplitude due to
..... !Ie
:: I :::

.. I -T----r---
the increasing c ----Ir---1------ ---r----- -,------1--
.. . ..
breakdown voltage

-. .. i .... J




I .. ...L-......J.-...
I f .... I ---.---
I ---

-- ---~




. . . I I I
. I -......
'. " .
I ........
. . . _ISa
. I ....


22e2le24e25e2A218 ....
" .. C . ' _ J

Virtual current chopping:

induced high-frequency ! I
----lI----I----r- -.~----~.
current in neighbour ___l......... .. ._.l__...l...__.
-phase forces power
frequency current (40A) -i------ .-+----.~---.
to zero, and interrupts
-. ..--.i------
: :
. I

Fig. 6: Measured example of multiple reignition , voltage escalation and virtual current chopping In laboratory conditions

Voltage over phase I of
a vacuum interrupter KEMA::b 98 02 17 -5 00 9
showing virtual current
chopping. The small gap
inherently limits the


n '--_~ __ ~ ~ __ ~ __ """:"_~~ ~ _ _....J

Voltage over phase 2 of 40

a vacuum interrupter
showing virtual current
chopping .The small gap
inherently limits the
' 40 L - _ - - ' -_ _--'- ~ __ ~ __ ~ _ ~ ~ __'__ _....J


Voltage over phase 3 of

a vacuum interrupter
showing multiple reignition
and voltage escalation.
Note the suppression peak
of reverse polarity
due to current chopping

Fig. 7: Measured example of multiple reignition, voltage escalation and virtual current chopping in realistic conditions in a high-power test (voltage 38 kV).
The interrupted current was 20 A

R.P.P. Smeets, Member, IEEE
KEMA High-Power Laboratory
Amhem, the Netherlands

Uc 1 - - - - -_ _- - - - - -
In spite of the great progress in the understanding of the
essential processes during vacuum arc switching, the pos-
sibilities to develop vacuum circuit-breakers based on
theoretical concepts are very limited. Therefore, testing of U' ~--r---..s'

circuit-breakers from the design phase up to the fmal

product is essential.

In the design phase, development tests, mostly carried out

Fig. 1: me two-parameter TRV.
by the manufacturer, lead to a gradual improvement of
prototypes. The final product will then be subjected to a 3. Dielectric withstand. This defmes how a circuit
series of type-tests, the aim of which is to prove that the breaker must be built to withstand voltage surges that
product complies with the requirements that are laid down it may expect as a result of lightning or switching.
in the standards. The most important of these standards are 4. Short-circuit interrupting capability. The principle
those of lEC (International Electrotechnica1 Commission) concern here is whether the circuit breaker withstands
and ANSI (American National Standard Institute). the transient recovery voltage (TRV) that appears
For many years, circuit-breakers applied in the US were across the contacts when it interrupts a short circuit
built to ANSI/IEEE standards and no utility would consider current.
buying a circuit-breaker that did not pass ANSI test
requirements. Conversely, circuit-breakers applied in In the following, attention will be focussed to the switching
Europe were built to meet the lEe standards. Other requirements (4) of vacuum circuit breakers according to
countries in the world have used one or the other of the two the two different standards.
standards according to geographical and colonial factors
and how their electrical networks were developed. IEC requirements.
Today, most countries outside the US use IEC standards.
Frequently, utilities refer to one standard, while requiring IEC has a general standard (IEC 694) that provides
certain features of the other. The major manufacturers common requirements for all types of switchgear. IEC 56
produce both IEe and ANSI equipment. The vast majority sets standards specifically for high-voltage circuit breakers
of the circuit breakers that are offered for certification in - where vacuum circuit breakers are part of - since IEC
the leading short-circuit testing laboratories are tested does not use the term medium voltage.
according to IEC. Generally speaking, for circuit breakers,
lEe standards are developed by representatives from
the IEC standard is more in line with the latest utilities, manufacturers and certification bodies for
developments in switchgear technology than ANSI. different countries (including USA). Scientific support is
Presently, there is a strong tendency for harmonizing both provided through CIGRE (the international conference on
standards, because of cost reduction and flexibility in large high voltage networks) and CENELEC (the standards
international trade. group for the EC).

1RV requirements with short circuit-current switching.

2. REQUIREMENTS For the voltage range in which vacuum circuit breakers
operate, IEC 56 prescribes the TRY waveshape envelope
Circuit breakers must meet requirements in four major by two parameters (see fig. 1). This offers the possibility to
areas: make the testing independent of the test circuit, without
causing too much difficulties for testing laboratories.
1. Mechanical capabilities. These are essential to circuit
breaker reliability and lifetime. The parameters are:
2. Thermal requirements. The value and stability of U; the maximum value of the TRY.
temperature rise at rated condition. Especially for t3: the time (after current zero) that this maximum is
vacuum interrupters, temperature rise is of more reached.
concern than for its competitor in the medium voltage
market, SF6 switchgear. Due to the vacuum Besides, a delay line (~- S'iffig. 1) is defmed by the three
interrupter's basic butt-contact configuration, contact parameters u', td, and t'.
resistance is difficult to keep at a very low value, Prior to testing, it must be verified that the envelope of the
limiting the nominal current. Besides, in the vacuum inherent TR V of the test circuit is located to the left side of
environment, heat loss can only result from heat the line from the origin to the point A', while the TR V itself
conduction through the contact stem. should not intersect the delay line.
The function of the delay line is to exclude the possibility Capacitor bank switching is generally more severe than the
of application of a TRV waveshape that is too slow in its other capacitive switching duties: the switching of the
initial period (eg. by parasitic capacitance). Especially in capacitive current of no-load cables and overhead lines.
this period immediately following current zero, the circuit In the switching of capacitor banks, high inrush current can
breaker is prone to reignition, although this is much less the arise when such banks are energized, since the capacitors
case for vacuum circuit breakers than for other types. form a very low impedance at the moment of energizing.
The inrush current is only limited by the (stray) inductance
In line with practice of electrical networks, the required of the circuit Especially in the so called back-to-back
TRV stress is depending on the value of the short-circuit configuration (energizing capacitor banks when other
current to be interrupted. Generally, the highest short banks are already in service) high inrush current can arise.
circuit current arises in a situation where different parts of Due to pre-striking (the formation of an arc before the
the circuit contribute to this current. In such a situation, the galvanic touch of the contacts) the inrush current mostly
equivalent capacitance as seen from the breaker is not very runs during this pre-striking period.
small, limiting the rate of rise of the TRV. The transient Vacuum circuit breakers required to fulfil this duty have to
recovery voltage of both IEe and ANSI refer to a single be designed in such a way that the contact system does not
frequency. They are in fact based on the interruption of a degrade dielectrically due to the remainders of broken
short-circuit current mainly fed via one or more (minor) welding at opening of the contacts following
transformers, In situations where short circuit current is capacitor bank energizing. For vacuum breakers this
supplied by a single source, such as a transformer, current requirement is more difficult to meet than for SF6 circuit

Testduty testcurrent Asymmetry Max. arcing Max. TRV (Ue) TRV rate
0/0 current of rise
(0/0) (kA) (kAPad (pu) (kV) (kV/J.LS)
1 10 3.15 0 4.5 2.25 66 2.88

2 30 9.45 0 13.3 2.25 66 2.88

3 60 18.9 0 26.7 2.25 66 1.44

4 100 31.5 0 44.6 2.10 62 0.57

5 100 31.5 30 58.0 2.10 62 0.57

is relatively low but TRV relatively steep. breakers.

Such considerations have led to 5 short circuit test duties
(see table), the parameters of which are specified in the In the next (revised) version of IEC 56, the following
table below for an example-vacuum circuit breaker with a typical values are specified:
rated voltage of 36 kV (peak phase voltage (-J2/~3)*36 kV
= 29.4 kV == 1 pu) and a rated short circuit breaking current back-to-back inrush current peak: 20kA
of 31.5 kA and a rated asymmetry' of 30%. back-to-back inrush current frequency: 4.25 kHz

Every test must be conducted in a precise series of In the existing IEe 56 standard, a circuit breaker could be
close/open operations with delays that are precisely spelled claimed to be restrike free if during the capacitive
out in the standards. switching test in the high power laboratory, no restrikes
were detected in a limited number of tests. This concept is
Capacitor bank current switching dropped in the revised lEe 56 standard Instead, two
Apart from short-circuit current interruption, another duty categories are defined:
that can be required is the switching of capacitor banks.
- Class A circuit breaker (very low restrike probability).
In order to obtain this attribute, the vacuum circuit breaker
has to undergo capacitive switching tests in two test
asymmetry is the transient behaviour of short circuit current during
the first several tens of ms after initiation of the fault in a circuit.
circuits with a diffent value of the voltage jump in (totally)
This causes higher current peak values (up to. 2.5 times the RMS 104 three phase or 168 single phase tests. Before the
value of the short-circuit current) than based on short circuit capacitive tests, a pre-stress of 60% of rated short circuit
impedance alone. IEC specifies a time constant of 45 ms for the breaking current is mandatory.
exponential decay time of this transient, but this value is generally
considered toolow. Recommedations from CIGRE call for a time
constant of up to 150 ms for cases where circuit breakers are - Class B circuit breaker (low restrike probability).
connected to a busbar which itself is supplied so/ely by one or two Hereby, no restrikes are allowed during 48 single - or three
transformers (see Bectra, 173, 1997, pp 19- 31).

phase test. This class is modelled after the existing ANSI establishing a set of preferred Tz values. Accordingly,

90 ,---- - - - - - - - - - - - - - ---, 90 ,----------'-------~

80 r: 80
: \
I \
: \
! '.
~-+--- I EC
/ 70

/~--- I
80 80 ./
/ Test-duty 4
50 /
~ /

30 30

20 20

10% rated short circuit current

10 10
100% short-circuit curren!

0 1.LL_J -_ ----L_ -----l_ _. l - _- ' -_ --L_ -----.J

o 20 40 80 80 100 120 140 o 20 40 80 80 100 120 140

time after current zero (us) time after current zero (us)

Fig, 2: Comparison ofTRV waveshapes in ANSI and lEe for test with minimum (left) and maximum (right) short circuit current,

requirements the Tz value for 15 kV circuit breakers has been

ANSI requirements proposed as:

While IEC provides a method of measuring and defining Tz = 75 us, which is consistent with past testing
the test-wave severity, ANSI specifies the test TRV wave practice for development and certification as well as
directly. For vacuum interrupters (ie. for all interrupters with Tz times specified in the mc 56 standard in the
same voltage range, The preferred TRV values apply
having a rated voltage below 72.5 kV) , a 1 - cosine at the condition of rated voltage and rated short circuit
waveshape is prescribed .that is characterized by the current. TRVs at other than these short circuit
parameters: conditions are determined with Ez and T z multipliers
that are defined as functions of the percentage of rated
~: peak value of TR V waveshape. This value is (in short circuit current.
ANSI C37.06) specified as: E z = 1.88 U, where U is
the rated maximum line-to-line system voltage. The range of interest for ANSI indoor circuit breakers
Tz: time to peak value. This parameter has until extends to KI where K is the rated voltage range
recently been left unspecified. Manufacturers have factor. Such circuit breakers can be applied not only
developed and certified their circuit breakers by testing at rated voltage and short-circuit current, but also at
under conditions readily available in most short circuit currents up to KI when the voltage is reduced to UIK
laboratories where long cable runs and machine Due to the difference in describing the ANSI and IEC
windings usually add considerable capacitance to the waveshape, the relation between (lEC) h (time-to-
test circuit and result in relatively slowly rising TRVs. peak of envelope) to (ANSI) T z is taken in KEMA's
Since most applications of indoor circuit breakers are testing practice:
in heavily cable connected systems with slow TR V
rates of rise , equipment developed to meet these lower T z = U5 t3,IDh with t3,1D4 the t3 value belonging to
stresses has performed well . lEC's test-duty 4 (l08 JiS for the example 36 kV
circuit breaker).
A task force' was set up to propose a clearly defined
standard TR V stress for indoor circuit breakers by Comparing the severity of TRV waveshapes for a 36 kV
circuit breaker undergoing short-circuit tests according to
2)Eg. see : Smith R.K ., "Tests show ability of vacuum circuit breaker to
IEC and ANSI, the test-duties with minimum and
interrupt fast transient recovery voltage rates of rise oftransformer maximum symmetrical short-circuit current are compared
secondary faults ", IEEE Tans . Pow. Del. , Vol. 10, No , I, (1995) in the table below.

The values are visualised in fig. 2. As can be seen, the TRV Such discharges are considered as NSDDs if they occur
severity in both standards is not the same . later than 1/4 cycle of power frequency after current

test current (% of maximum) peak ofTRV (kV) time to peak (us)

lEC56 ANSI C37.06 lEC (Uc) ANSI (Ez) lEC (t3) ANSI (Tz)

Minimum 10 7 66 79.4 23 50

Maximum 100 100 62 67.7 108 124

interruption in the last two poles to clear. Earlier discharges

Special requirements for vacuum circuit breakers. are considered to form part of the arc-extinguishing
process. The presence of such discharges can be recognized
Neither lEC, nor ANSI distiguishes between different by inspection of the test oscillogram (see fig. 3). In testing,
technologies of circuit breakers. This causes problems in one should be aware that recognition of NSDDs from
the application of the standards in several cases . oscillograms is not trivial, especially in the case of an even
Since vacuum circuit breakers operate on very different number of reignition current loops and the grounding of the
principles (compared to SF 6 interruption and the old oil
technology) special clauses and procedures are necessary in
order to include specific "vacuum peculiarities" into the , ~,- , ---

existing standards. ._._ .J


Standards are not always defined unambiguously, and since ' -l"'" ~ .... _ - - - -
; \ ' \
the standanls are not always up to date with respect to the !\ /\ (\ ,. \ i ; .
r \1 '1 \,/
i / \ ~:
latest technology, in the practice of testing of high-power - - - \ , . \ / \" / , ~. ~
laboratories frequently use is made of interpretation -J \J

guidelines. The most authoritative of these are the - - .. - oJ' --r- .

guidelines of STL (Short-Circuit Testing Liaison) in which f\
,. \ 1
the leading high-power laboratories participate. Based of ;- ; ,.
~ ;' .
the STL-guide added to lEC 56, the following points - \j I
typical to vacuum interrupters - are always considered in
KEMA's testing and certification practice, not only when 1/
testing according to IEC, but also to ANSI. ,
!! r ., ., I

Condition ofcontacts. r ,
'/\-A \
A typical example is the standard IEC requirement to check
the condition of the circuit breaker after test . In the case of
vacuum interrupters, that do not allow visual inspection of
:;-e - _.-
:.~ \I
.+n .l
~'\ ~ ~

:' /
t:_v_ - _ \)
! ". '

the contact system after short-circuit testing, the contact

_._ - ---- -
resistance is taken as a measure. It is compared before and
after the short-circuit current tests . If the contact resistance
(of each interrupter-bottle) is not increased by more than
200%, this part of the inspection is satisfactory.
- Insulation of the interrupter after test.
In order to check the insulation integrity after short circuit Fig. 3: Oscillogram ofNSDD in high power laboratory. Voltages
are phase voltages to ground.
tests a one minute power frequency voltage at a value of
80% of the rated withstand voltage or at least 110% of the circuit is at the source.
full open contact breakdown voltage for that vacuum In single phase tests , NSDD's are easily distinguished from
interrupter with internal atmospheric air pressure restrikes, since the latter are followed by one half cycle of
(whichever value is the highest) shall be applied. power frequency current. In three phase testing (with
isolated neutral) such a distinction can not be made.
NSSD (non-sustained disruptive discharges)
On occasions, one or more NSSD may occur during the For the acceptance of a vacuum circuit breaker for
recovery voltage period following a breaking operation. An certification, the following procedure is followed STL
NSDD is defined as a disruptive discharge between the towards NSDD:
contacts during the recovery voltage period resulting in a power frequency voltage has to be maintained at least
high-frequency current flow which is related to stray 300 ms after current interruption
capacitance local to the interrupter. The occurrence of certification will not be possible if there are four or
NSDD is interpreted as showing some sign of distress. more occurrences of NSDD during the entire series of
Discharges during the transient recovery voltage period are test duties. Multiple occurrences are counted
not considered to be an NSDD. individually.
resumption of power frequency current is not allowed.
Occurrence of (up to three NSDDs) has to be a vacuum interrupter (generally not by interrupters with
mentioned in the certificate, issued by the certifying other media), see fig. 4b.
body. The choice for the lRV circuit clearly dictates the wave-
shape of the transient current after reignition: a series
3. TEST-CIRCUITS damped TRV circuit can cause an a-periodic reignition
current (unlike the reality), thus causing a failure of
The choice of test-eircuits is not trivial, when dealing with interruption, but without overvoltage generation.
vacuum interrupters.
This is another example of the importance of high-
In test-laboratories, two methods are used for providing
frequency phenomena that are especially relevant when
adequate damping of the lRV, parallel- and series damping
(see fig. 4a). By adjusting the ratio of surge impedance to dealing with vacuum equipment
ohmic resistance, the lRV waveshape can be chosen as
prescribed in the standards. 4. CERTIFICAnON

1.50 , - - - - - -- - - - - -- - - -- -
As an appendix, KEMA's certification rules (in line with
STL) for vacuum circuit breakers are added These give a
good impression of the procedure of type test certification,
types of certificates, required identification and the test

4.1 Type test certification procedure

0 .50 A Certificate contains a record of a series of type test
carried out strictly in accordance with a recognized
standard. The equipment tested has fulfilled the
parallel damping requirements of this standard and the relevant ratings
0 .00 _ __'__ __ _ _ . J ' _ __ _ _ l ._ _____.J
~ _ _ _ ' __ _
assigned by the manufacturer are endorsed by KEMA. The
o 40 80 time (us) 120 160 200
Certificate is only applicable to the equipment tested
KEMA is responsible for the validity and the contents of
Fig. 4a: Series and parallel damped TRY's . the Certificate.
The responsibility for conformity of any apparatus having
the same designation as the one tested rests with the
The Certificate contains the essential drawings and a
a-periodical reignilion current (series damped TRV) description of the equipment tested.

r-. ..:- . . . ..., 1-'

Certification Procedure
If a client wishes to obtain a Certificate, this has to be
! \'" //// \.~'~ s- current
announced in writing before the start of the tests. Since the
testing authority is responsible for the correct execution of
,"\. ,!'\ the tests, KEMA will decide on matters such as test
" . ,' periodical reignition current (parallel damped) procedure, test parameters, the sequence of the tests,
interpretations of results, etc., all within the limits of the
\ interruption of HF reignilion current
relevant standard
In case of irregularities due to the test sample, KEMA may
decide that the complete procedure has to be repeated
Furthermore, it may require the test duty, during which the
Fig. 4b : Reignition current in series and parralel damped circuits irregularity occurred, to be repeated twice. The client has to
investigate the cause of the irregularity and provide a
Usually, the parallel damped circuit is used, because it's statement in this effect.
lRV is in line with the delay line concept of lEe and the
"I - cos" shape of ANSI. Since the resistor bank dissipates Preparation of the test sample before tests, maintenance
a considerable amount of energy, a hybrid solution can be between test duties and preparation for inspection after
adopted by using a series damped circuit with a delay tests have to be carried out by the client's representative(s)
capacitance in parallel. after consultation with the KEMA test engineer.

As mentioned in ch. I, after reignition of a vacuum inter- In principle the certification tests on a test object should be
rupter, a high-frequency current starts to flow that can be terminated within one test period If this is not possible, the
interrupted; a process that can lead to voltage escalation. test sample with spare parts will be stored at KEMA and
The waveshape of such reignition current is oscillatory in the tests have to be resumed and finished within three
real circuits and therefore this current can be interrupted by months.

charging currents, cable-eharging currents, single capacitor
If certification is requiredto an lEe Standardfor which an bank currents and back-to-back capacitor bank currents.
STL Guide bas been issued, STL Procedures will be A Certificate of Switching Performance can only be issued
followed. in addition to a Certificate of Short-Circuit Performance or
Type Test.
Identification Drawings
A complete set of identification drawings and a description The manufacturer of the circuit breaker is responsible for
of the test object has to be available to the test engineer the identification of the components.
before the tests.
4.3 Information to be supplied by the client
The identification drawings shall show the test sample as it
is submitted for the tests. The drawings shall show the The following information shall be supplied to the testing
essential components of the object tested in sufficient laboratory prior to test and shall be included in the
detail The manufacturer will be requested to list the Certificate.
drawings on a special form containing the following
statement: "The manufacturer guarantees that the Drawings
equipment submitted for testing has been manufactured in The drawings listed below, together with the
accordance with the following drawings". manufacturer's description, are deemed sufficient to
establish a satisfactory relationship between the circuit
The drawings will be compared with the test object. In breaker presented for test and the drawings purporting to
general this will be done in an assembly bay at a time represent that type.
chosen by the laboratory staff and in presence of the
client's representative(s). The form will be signed by the Description
manufacturer's representative and the KEMA inspector for The manufacturer's description of the circuit breaker shall
correctness. contain at least the following items of infonnation:
a) Designation and Serial Number
If a drawing has to be modified, the equipment will be b) Outline of the vacuum interrupter
stored at KEMA for a maximum timeof one month. Within c) Outline of the operating mechanism (springs,
this period the revised drawings, now correct, have to be compressed air etc.)
supplied for inspection Otherwise, a Report of d) Rated characteristics
Performance will be issued instead of a Certificate. e) Multi-unit circuit breakers
- the number of units and their duty
A sufficient number of drawings will be reduced in size - make, type, number and value of shunt impedance
and incorporated in the Certificate, or alternatively, be (where applicable)
incorporated in a separate folder forming a second part to - the results of calwlation or measurements of voltage
the Certificate. distribution (where applicable) taking into account the
tolerances of shunt impedances (see also sub-elause
4.2 Types of certif'lCate of me 56)
t) Vacuum interrupter
When an equipment has satisfied the specified require- - make, type and serial numbers of the interrupters
ments, KEMA will, upon request, issue one of the - test report of temperature-rise tests carried out (if not
following types of Certificates: available,this test will be carried out at KEMA after the
short-circuit tests)
a). Certificate with respect to Type Test - open gap dimension of new interrupter for the rating
This Certificate provides the verification of all the rated being tested
characteristics of an equipment as assigned by the - the value of breakdown voltage with the vacuum
manufacturer. It comprises all the type tests on the circuit replaced by air at atmosphericpressure (Paschen-curve)
breaker. Special type tests subject to agreement between - contact pressure during the tests
manufacturer and userare not included. g) List of renewable parts

b). Certificate with respectto Short-circuit Performance 4.4 Test program

This Certificate provides the verification of the rated
characteristics related to short-circuit making and breaking Certificate ofshort-circuitperformance
perfonnance and the short-time current withstand Program:
perfonnance. a. Verification of the condition before the tests.
Other individual type tests, not special type tests, may be b. No-load operations at 1100/0, 100% and 85/700A. of the
included if so requested by the client. supplyvoltage.
c. Short-time current tests.
c). Certificate with respect to Switching Performance d. Basic short-circuit test duties 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
This certificate provides the verification of some or all of e. Single-phase test
the optional lilted characteristics related to switching line- f. No-loadoperationsat 11()O/o, 100% and 85/70010.
g. Verification of the conditionafter tests.

h. Comparison of drawings with test object suitability for systems with effectively earthed neutral have
not been carried out
Remarks: During the tests the recovery voltage will be maintained for
0.3 seconds.
a. and g: Because of the particular construction of a
vacuum interrupter inspection of the contacts and assess- General remarks:
ment of the condition of the main insulation is not possible
visually. Therefore the following procedure is adopted: A certificate cannot be issued if:
during the tests d, e four or more non-sustained
i. Dielectric test on the vacuum interrupters: disruptive discharges occur (accordingto STL).
before tests: At 100% of the rated power frequency resumption of the power frequency current occurs after
withstand voltage. the contacts are in full open position (according to
after tests: At least 80% of the rated power :frequency STL).
withstand voltage of the circuit-breaker or, at least during the dielectric test after the short-circuit tests
110% of the full open contact breakdown voltage for twice a momentary internal breakdown within an
that vacuum interrupter with internal atmospheric air interrupter occurs after which the test voltage
pressure. Whichever value is the higher shall be used innnediately recovers (accordingto STL).
for this test (according to STL).

ii. Measurement of the contact resistance:

The result of the tempernture-rise test should be
submitted by the manufacturer before the tests. The
contact resistance measured before the tests shall not
exceed 120% of the highest resistance value recorded
for the vacuum interrupter submitted to the
temperature-rise test (according to STL).
A temperature-rise test will be carried out at one of the
KEMA-Iaborntories if the contact resistance for one
the interrupters after the tests is higher than 200% of
the resistance of the interrupter measured at the
temperature-rise tests (according to STL) or if no
temperature-risetest was carried out before the tests.
The manufacturer may submit extra results of
additional tempernture-rise test with differentvalues of
contact resistance. In that case the temperature-rise test
after the short-circuit tests may be omitted, provided
that the value of the contact resistance after test does
not exceed 120% of the highest resistance value
measured at the temperature-rise test submitted.
For SF6 insulated vacuum interrupters the manu-
facturer shall submit the contact resistance values of
the vacuum interrupter before the tests. After the tests
the breaker will be dismantled and the contact
resistance of the vacuum interrupters will be measured
and compared with the values submitted.

iii. Measurement of the contact gap in open position.

c. A no-load operation at 100% of the supply voltage with

registration of contact separation will be carried out after
the short-time currenttest (according to STL).

d. At test duty No. 4 the making current can be limited to

2.6 times the rated breaking current by introducing an
additional reactor in the circuit during the make operation.
For test duty No. 5 in general more than 3 tests are
necessary to meet the latest lEe requirements, however,
not more than 6.

e. In general a single-phase test is carried out. If not, the

certificate will mention that the tests for verification of the

(as applicable)
Completely If relevant
In all cases
General layout Overall dimensions x*

Supporting structure, as for service

Metal enclosed-unit, as for service
Electrical clearances:
- to earth X
- between poles x
Location and size of coolers and
e~ X

Location and size of barriers X

between poles

Cross-sectional view Travel of moving contacts x

through the axis of the
Electrical clearance between open
contacts x
Distance between point of contact
separationand end of travel
Details of isulators (material,
creepagedistance) x

Details of fittings x

Chamcteristics of springs x
Operating and Normal operating devices x
coupling mechanism 1-------~ ~---_+_--------___fo
of complete circuit Emergency operntingdevices X
. . . . . . - ------___1
Chamcteristics of main springs X

Latching device x

+ In some case circuit breakers are submittedfor type tests with provisional supporting structures (or metal-enclosures).
This procedure is accepted provided this does not affect the behaviour of the circuit breaker and it shall be recorded in the
test documents.
* For interrupters, only the external dimensionsneed to be checked.

Where a certificate is granted for a circuit-breaker based For the time being, where the above phenomenon is also
on a series of tests during which a non-sustained not in contradiction to the requirements of lEe
disruptive discharge occurred, the following statement Publication 56, KEMA will issue certificates with respect
will be made on sheet No.1 of the certificate: to short-circuit performance of vacuumcircuit-breakers.

Remark: If the above-mentioned phenomenon, which is typical for

During the tests forming this certificate (a) non-sustained the principle of vacuum interrupters, is observed the
disruptive discharge(s} occurred during the recovery following statement will be made on sheet No. 1 of the
voltage period on test duty(ies) ..... It certificate:

Certain types of vacuum interrupters show a very low Remark:

withstand voltageacrossthe open contacts after a closing Test No - : at the instant that the voltage was
on short-circuit followed by an opening operation in applied, the test circuit-breaker spontaneously carried
no-load. It bas been observed that in such situations a currentduring one loop with the contacts stationary in the
vacuum interrupter was not able to withstand the normal openposition.
switching voltages at the application of the rated voltage
with the interrupter in openposition. The same behaviour This kind of phenomena is occasionally recorded during
was observed during a series of CO-operations when testing of vacuum circuit-breakers and has not yet been
switching capacitor bank currents. Due to inrush the considered in IEe Publication 56.
making current is considerably higher than the breaking
current in such circuits.

The above phenomenon is not recognized in me

Publication 56.

The basic short-circuit test duties consist of O-operntions

and CO-operations: consequently the behaviour of a
circuit-breaker as described above is not verifiedduringa
normalshort-circuit test series.

Prediction, modeling, simulation, and mitigation of switching
transients in vacuum switchgear
M.T. Glinkowski
ABB Electric Systems Technology Institute
Raleigh, NC

It is this awareness that prompts the

Abstract- This section addresses the more question of what kind of transients one
advanced subjects related to prediction, could expect in his/her system.
modeling, and simulation of switching
transients associated with vacuum Generally there are several ways of
switchgear devices. The last section also obtaining the answer to this inquiry. One
presents various methods and practices possible option is to run field tests in the
related to transient surge suppression, if actual system and instrument it with the
required. voltage and current sensors connected to
the oscillographic/data recording equipment
INTRODUCTION to capture the switching events. This is not
always practical and even impossible if the
Design of modem power equipment aims at system does not exist yet such as during the
reducing the cost of the devices and design stage. Also, during the tests, trying
increase the efficiency. Minimizing losses, to induce the transients by deliberate
weight, physical dimensions, and at the switching events will cause unnecessary
same time maximizing the voltage and stress to the equipment and, if indeed the
current ratings are the primary targets for system surge protection is not adequate,
the equipment manufacturers. Although in might result in the equipment damage. This
many instances the equipment can be is an expensive way of transients
redesigned to meet these requirements it management.
also means that the design margins over
and above the requirements are lower or Another approach is to set up a small scale
even approaching zero. These seemingly laboratory experiment equivalent to the
conflicting trends prompt the power system system in question in order to reproduce
engineers pay more attention to the stresses and record the switching events and
their equipment is subjected to. Also, the correlate this to the real system. Often not
advent of the new technologies, such as all the necessary equipment is available (for
power electronics, efficient motors, example, has not been built yet) and trying
intelligent process controls of power to test different solutions to the transient
equipment, etc. make the system more problems is also limited. This approach,
sensitive to the electrical transients caused although very attractive and valid, does not
by switching. In summary the power system allows testing "what if' scenarios.
is more sensitive to the transient surge
phenomena and the power engineers are An attractive alternative to the two physical
more aware of the different higher testing procedures is numerical modeling
frequency events associated with switching. and simulation of transients.

calculations of transients. Figure 1
Wealth of knowledge exists on analytical illustrates both of them.
and numerical modeling of vacuum
switchgear. This part of the tutorial briefly a.
describes the methods and the models that ........
vacuum device ...... power system
can be used in prediction, simulation, and ...... circuit model
model .....
mitigation of transients associated with the
switching operations.

In the last several years vacuum switchgear b.

has received a lot of attention caused by
switching transients associated with such vacuum device I........
power system
phenomena as: model circuit model

current chopping
virtual current chopping Figure 1. Two types of models of vacuum switching
devices. (a) full interactive model between the
restrikes device and the circuit;
prestrikes (b) vacuum device as a receiving element, external
multiple reignitions circuit functions not affected by the vacuum model
voltage escalation
post-arc currents In the first case (Fig. la) the device can
NSDD (non-sustained disruptive fully interact with the power system
discharges). representation. It provides full simulated
environment of the phenomena studied.
It is often misunderstood how all these Figure 1b allows prediction of the transient
phenomena are created and what are their phenomena created by the system and their
real causes. In brief, the majority of impact on the switching device but does not
transients associated with vacuum reflect the feedback from the device model
switchgear are not just results of the to the power system. Naturally the first type
switching device alone but the interaction is the desired one but not always available.
between the device and other components
of the power system. In other words, theThere are also many different vacuum
same vacuum circuit breaker can cause switch models representing different types
severe interaction with other power of physical phenomena. There is no single
equipment in one power model that describes all the processes of the
switchgear so the models have to be more
configuration but will have no significant
effect in another configuration. The specific to the phenomena under
problem has to be treated as a whole. investigation. In practical transient
switching studies the model of a vacuum
REPRESENTATION OF VACUUM device should include one or more of the
dynamic dielectric withstand capability
There are generally two types of vacuum of the device for transient recivery
device model categories used in the

voltages (TRV) during either opening Dielectric Withstand Capability (nWC)
or closing operation,
current interrupting capability for Figure 2 illustrates the dielectric withstand
transient (high frequency) currents, capability of a vacuum switch.
dynamic dielectric withstand capability
of the device at high frequencies
(during ITRV, initial TRV),
statistical distribution of dielectric
breakdowns of the device under

particular electrical conditions.

The three main characteristics that the
author used successfully in transient studies

for many years are: current chopping,
dielectric withstand capability, and high
frequency interruption capability. The o time after contact separation
following section briefly describes the three (first few ms)
Figure 2. Dielectric Withstand Capability (DWC) of
a vacuum switch. Dots illustrate measured data
Current Chopping
Notice several features that are unique to
Current chopping is primarily a function of vacuum. The dielectric withstand of
the contact material used in the interrupters. vacuum switch is measured by the
Early materials (1960-1970s) exhibited breakdown voltage taken at the different
rather large current chopping, the new times after contact separation during
materials cause much smaller current chop. opening. The time after contact separation
Current chopping does also depend on the is of course related to the contact travel and
shunt capacitance parallel to the vacuum the contact material. These breakdown
interrupter and to a lesser extend on the voltages are statistical in nature as
series inductance. However, these illustrated by the points on the graph. In
dependencies are typically insignificant in order to quantify the statistical trend many
power system studies unless these shunt data points are required, typically anywhere
capacitance and series inductance vary a between few hundred and few thousand
great deal from the customary values. points per graph. Using standard statistical
regression analysis a best-fit distribution
For representing this chopping can be found. The experience indicates that
characteristic the knowledge of the commercial vacuum switching devices are
particular current chopping value with the well approximated by a straight line
statistical distribution (standard deviation, function in the time frame of interest
sigma) is sufficient in most cases. Values (several milliseconds).Notice also that the
such as 2 - 8 A with standard deviation of intercept of the straight line in Figure 2 is
+/- 1 - 5 A are representative. not zero. This is not a coincidence. Vacuum
contacts exhibit instantaneous dielectric
strength of about 0.5 kV - 3 kV

immediately after contact separation (at DWC) but it is possible to obtain a best fit
t=O). The slope of the straight line and the straight line approximation for the most
degree of correlation between the points commercial devices.
and the curve depend very much on the
particular device, vacuum interrupter used,
mechanism, etc.

High Frequency Interruption Capability

(HFIC) dIldt for
high frq.
This is the third of the critical features that
determines the unique behavior of the A/JlS
vacuum device during transients. Current
interruption in vacuum is controlled by
complex processes of arc plasma existing
between the contacts at the current zero.
Under normal circumstances this plasma is
a result of the activities of the so-called
cathode spot(s), which have remarkable o time after contact separation
(of the order of few ms)
ability of melting and vaporizing minute
amounts of contact metal, and turning them Figure 3. Interrupting capability (dIldt) of a ~acuum
into highly ionized, electrically charged switching device for high frequency transient
plasma particles. In the properly desig~ed
vacuum interrupters the arc plasma during
As in the case of DWC the straight line
the final passage of the current to zero is
projects to a non-zero intercept point on the
not affected by the peak magnitude of the
vertical axis suggesting that even at t=O
current. In other words, the arc memory is
(almost zero gap length) the interrupter
very short. This critical observation has an
already has some interruption capability.
important impact on the interruption
Also notice that the interruption capability
capabilities of the vacuum switch. The
is a function of time after contact separation
interruption capability of vacuum switches
(contact gap). Interestingly the slope of the
is measured by the rate of decay of the
straight line could be positive or negative
current prior to current zero, dIldt.
depending on the device.
Since during electrical transients the surge
currents are typically of high frequencies it
is the high frequency interruption capability EXAMPLES OF CALCULATED
(HFIC) that should be represented in the SWITCIDNG TRANSIENTS
mathematical model.
EMTP (Electromagnetic Transient
In Figure 3 straight line illustrates the best Program) or its sister version ATP
fit of the measured data points of high (Alternative Transient Program) are
frequency dI/dt's that a vacuum switch is excellent numerical tools that allow for in-
able to interrupt. The actual data points are depth studies of switching transients in
statistical again (as in the case with the industrial as well as utility power systems.

shows two very high frequency sub-

.- I
transients both going in the negative
direction of the voltage. The second
transient ends up in a negative loop of
; - - ,.- .
.. .." -- current that changes the polarity to positive
at just about 460 us (a tick mark on the
.10<1 time scale is visible there). These two high
frequency transients and the voltage loop
+---f---+---,-+---,----<are associated with the current chop and the
immediate reignition of current. Notice,
-. "1 88 that the negative polarity of the voltage
voltage transients loop and the negative direction of the two
due to reignitions high frequency transients agree with the
negative polarity of the last half cycle of the
current interrupted in that phase (upper
graph). The remaining transient voltage
Figure 4. Example of the calculated opening
transient associated with the inductive load. The top spikes last from -465 us to -540 us. They
graph represents the current, bottom graph contains also result from the reignitions of the arc
voltage across the vacuum circuit breaker. System but with the positive polarity. In this
voltage is 13.8 kV. Time scale =200llS total, example the breaker contacts in the
Current scale = +/-800 A max, Voltage scale =
+/- 40 kV max.
reigniting phase opened about 120 us
before current chop occurred therefore the
gap at the instant of current passage to zero
Since the high frequency characteristics of was very short, of the order of fraction of
the power system equipment are dependent mm.
on stray capacitances and inductances and
they in turn depend on physical dimensions, Closing transients in vacuum switches
equipment layout, materials, cable lengths , might look similar to an example in Figure
etc. these studies are installation-specific 5. Here only one phase current (top graph)
and have to be performed on a case by case and one phase voltage (bottom graph) are
basis. Figure 4 represents an example of the shonw for clarity. The series of short
voltage and current waveforms computed in duration voltage and current surges are
the system when switching off inductive generated when the contacts come close
loads. The time scale of the graphs is quite together. Notice again the short time
fine and covers a total of 200 us window. window for the graphs of 200 us.
The middle phase current in the top part of
the graph is the first phase to clear. Notice After the initial voltage collapse due to the
small, short duration high frequency first prestrike the vacuum interrupter is able
transient pulses associated with the to interrupt the high frequency current after
reignitions of the vacuum interrupter in that which the intermediate recovery voltage
phase. The lower graph corresponds to the
voltage across the breaker pole under
restrikes. A few features of this voltage are
worth pointing out. Firs, the beginning of
the transient voltage (at around 450 us)


protected as possible. Minimizing straight
inductance and stray capacitance of the
connections is of the essence. The right
solution for the suppression of surges
-. 4ftM
2M depends on economics, criticality of the
l.j. . - - equipment being protected, cost of failure
. mmJ
e.H 1
~- !881&B .::~.-_. ~ 88172 -1 ---'-~88 17fi analysis (COF), and a probability of the
1 Secon ds i i i
~ I ........._................. . L l _ ~L _..HJ ~ L . overvoltage occurring in the given system.
-. 268 '"

metallic contact
ZoO arresters

Zinc-oxide arresters are commonly installed

Figure 5. Example of the calculated closing
transients due to prestrikes. Top graph-current in
on distribution equipment, particularly on
one phase, bottom graph- voltage across the breaker
transformers and motors to suppress the
in the same phase . 13.8 kV system. Time scale =
voltage magnitude below the arrester
200l1s total, Current scale = +/-40 A max, Voltage
scale =+/- 20 kV max. critical voltage value. ZnO arresters do not
modify the rate of rise of the voltage
develops as a result of the system transients.
interaction. This recovery voltage breaks
down the interrupter again and the process Surge capacitors
repeats itself. The similarity between the
nature of the transients at closing (Figure 5) Surge capacitors can modify (reduce) the
and at opening (Figure 4) are striking. The rate of rise of the surge voltages generated
same kind of high frequency currents and in the system. The are effective means of
intermediate recovery voltages are reducing the steepness of the transients
involved. The only difference is the final especially when protecting motors and
conclusion of the sequence. Since at closing transformers. It is well known that the
the contact gap is diminishing the sequence distribution of transient voltages in
in Figure 5 finishes with the final windings is not uniform and depends on the
establishing of the 60 Hz current, seen as a frequency components of the overall
straight line on the top graph. When transient waveform. The higher the
contacts establish metallic connection the frequency component (steeper the voltage
voltage becomes zero. front) the more non-uniform the
distribution of the voltage. The highest
SURGE MANAGEMENT AND stress is typically in the first few turns of
SUPPRESSION the winding or in the first section of the
coil. Surge capacitors filter out the higher
If determined that the transients generated frequency components of the transients and
as a result of the interaction of a particular therefore contribute to more uniform
breaker in a particular system application distribution of the transient voltage inside
are not acceptable various means of surge the winding.
protection or suppression can be employed.
The main rule of thumb for the placement Surge capacitors also modify the natural
of the surge protective devices is to mount frequency and the surge impedance of the
them as close to the equipment being motor (or load) circuit. A typical surge

capacitor of 0.2 ~ can lower the natural Grounding and Shielding
frequency of the TRV and the surge
impedance by one order of magnitude. This The most neglected form of surge
can also have a positive effect on management associated with any
minimizing the transients and lowering the switchgear is grounding and shielding. In
probability of overvoltages. particular the surges created by the
interaction of vacuum switchgear and the
The effectiveness of the surge capacitors system are of the high frequency nature.
depend on the specific electrical parameters Therefore the shielding and grounding
of the circuit they are connected to, against the high frequencies might often
particularly, its surge impedance and the prove to be sufficient to reduce the
natural frequency. transients to a safe level. There has been
some research performed on grounding
R-C circuits practices for surge protection and
propagation but to date the conclusions
A combination of a resistor R and capacitor from the different source are not consistent.
C in series provides a way of reducing the Application and design engineers often face
rate of rise of the transients and at the same a dilemma on how, where and what to
time dissipating the transient energy and ground to have the system perform its best
providing more significant damping for when subjected to vacuum switching
higher frequency components of the surge. transients. A common example of the
R-C circuits however, do not insure grounding dilemma is shown in Figure 7.
limiting the absolute magnitude of the
voltage transients to a certain level. From the high frequency point of view
option c (Figure 7c) seems to be more
effective than options a and b but this also
ZORC introduces a danger of inducing significant
circulating currents at 60 Hz because of the
ZORC is a combination of ZnO arrester ground loop between the cable shield,
with an R-C cicuit. Figure 6 presents one ground return path (wherever this might be,
possible realization. shown in the Figure as a dotted line) and
the two grounding points. The options a
and b change the pattern of the traveling
waves resulting from the high frequency
transients generated at the breaker end.

In conclusion, much effort is needed in the

area of understanding the vacuum
switchgear transients as well as
determination of the most suitable means
for transient prevention and suppression.

Figure 6. ZORC circuit

a.~ shielded cable the interrupters are subjected to prolonged
I LJ -------~
and frequent arcing the replacement of the
interrupters can easily be performed. Most
vacuum switches are equipped with a
b. simple mechanical indicator (gauge) that
allows a quick visual estimate of the
() contact wear due to erosion.

Check of vacuum pressure and vacuum

c. integrity

Users familiar with the other switching
. .........
.. 2
' c. - technologies, particularly SF6, often inquire
about the pressure check or gage that would
indicate whether or not the interrupter
Figure 7. Various options for grounding of a contains sufficiently low pressure. This is
shielded cable, a. at the motor entrance, b. at the typically not done on the commercial scale
switchgear, c. on both ends of the cable.
in vacuum interrupters for two practical
reasons. First, even a simple vacuum
~ressure gauge installed on every
Interrupter would add cost to this
competitive product. In today's competitive
market place users demand the lowest cost
Due to the excellent, unique features of
products. Such a pressure gauge would also
vacuum interrupters and vacuum arcs
be economically hard to justify considering
switchgear devices based on this
the fact that during production vacuum
technology require much less maintenance
interrupters are thoroughly checked and
and care compared to the older technologies
rechecked after several days of shelf time
such as air-magnetic or oil. Smaller
so the quality of the products leaving the
phys~cal dimensions, lower energies
factory is extremely high.
required to operate, full containment of the
contacts and the arc in the vacuum
Maintenance of the drives
enclosure make the vacuum switchgear an
attractive solution for the users. Vacuum
Mechanical drives require the same or less
interrupters have a standard shelf life of at
maintenance than the other switching
least 20 years. Field experience on many of
technologies. Since the operating
the older (1960's glass-enclosed) vacuum
mechanical energies are smaller the moving
devices indicates that they already
components of the drive (linkages, levers,
surpassed their time limitation.
shafts, springs, latches, etc.) require less
maintenance. Standard lubrication and
Maintenance of vacuum interrupters or
periodic checking is recommended. Timing
interrupter contacts
test for closing and opening times, is a good
practice and assures that the mechanism is
None. The devices are sealed for life, self-
in good shape. Typically these tests might
contained, non serviceable. Typically he
be performed every -1000 operations.
contact erosion due to arcing is minimal. If

of the opposite anode can generate small
The recent introduction of the magnetic amount of X-ray emission. Under normal
drives (actuators) and associated with it circumstances, i.e. within the voltage rating
elimination of many of the moving parts of the device and at the full open gap the X-
including springs, linkages, the motor, etc. ray emission is zero or minimal. However,
make the vacuum switchgear virtually when the device is tested or operated at a
maintenance free. These drives have been fractional gap distance the same voltage
tested for 100,000 operations or better and may cause measurable X-rays. In such
manufacturers claims that these numbers special cases manufacturers of vacuum
can be improved even further. switches warn the users of the potential
exposure and recommend that a protective
Operational safety lead shield, or equivalent means, be used if
any personnel be working close to the
When high voltage is applied between two vacuum chamber. Normally, safety
electrodes in vacuum environment a small distances for electrical reasons are
electron emission current results. The sufficient.
cathodic electrons bombarding the surface


Mietek T. Glinkowski was born in Poland in 1956. He received his M.S.

degree in Telecommunication Engineering from Poznan Polytechnic,
Poznan, Poland, in 1980, the M.E. degree in Electric Power Engineering
from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, in 1985, and his Ph.D. in
Electric Power Engineering in 1989. He was a Fulbright Scholar in 1984-
1985. Dr. Glinkowski joined ABB Electric Systems Technology Institute in
Raleigh, NC in June, 1997 as an Advisory Engineer and Technology Team
Leader for Switchgear and Insulation Systems. He is responsible for the
coordination of research and development of ABB ETI in this technology
area. Prior to joining ABB Dr. Glinkowski was an Associate Professor with
the Electric Power Engineering Department at Rensselaer. His area of
expertise includes power switchgear (especially vacuum), electrical
discharges , vacuum arcs, power systems applications of vacuum switchgear,
system protection, mathematical modeling of power system components,
electrical transients in power systems, as well as novel AI techniques
applied to power engineering . Dr. Glinkowski has also taught power
engineering courses, graduate and undergraduate, as well as core engineering courses in dynamic systems. While
with the university he has worked on several industry-sponsored projects concerning operation, design, and
analysis of power equipment. He co-authored one book and wrote number of technical papers. Mietek
Glinkowski is a Senior Member of IEEE Power Engineering Society active in the Switchgear, Power Engineering
Education , and PSRC Committees. member of CIGRE , Current Zero Club, New York Academy of Sciences, and
SEP (Society of Polish Electrical Engineers). He is also on the International Scientific Committee of the Short
Circuit Currents (SCC) Symposium. Dr. Glinkowski is a registered Professional Engineer (PE) in New York and
a member of the Sigma Xi research society.

Rene Peter Paul Smeets was born in Venlo, the Netherlands in 1955.
He received the M.Sc. degree in physics from the Eindhoven Univ. of
Technology . He obtained a Ph.D. degree for research work on vacuum
arcs. Until 1995, he was an assistant professor at Eindhoven University.
During 1991 he worked with Toshiba Corporation's Heavy Apparatus
Engineering Laboratory in Japan . In 1995 he joined KEMA High Power
Laboratory , where he is coordinating the R&D activities. He is a member
of CIGRE WG 13.04 (testing techniques for switchgear), the "Current
Zero Club" and the IEEE.

Dr. P. G. Slade, Cutler-Hammer, Horseheads, NY, USA. Dr. Paul G. Slade
received the B.S. and Ph.D degrees from the University of Wales, Swansea,
U.K., the Diploma of Mathematical Physics from the University of Wales,
Swansea, U.K., and the M.B.A. degree from the University of Pittsburgh,
Pittsburgh, PA. He has 30 years of research experience covering a wide
range of problems associated with the development of new contact materials,
switching electric current , the welding of electric contacts in air and vacuum,
the properties of arcs, the effect of arcing on electrical contacts and the
development of vacuum interrupters. He has published extensively with over
75 presentations in technical conferences and with papers published in
archival technical journals. He also has 20 patents. His work in the field of
electric contacts has been recogn ized with the award of the Ragnar Holm
Scientific Achievement Award presented by the IEEE Holm Conference on
Electrical Contacts. He presently has the position of Manager, Vacuum
Interrupter Technology, Cutler-Hammer, Horseheads Operations,
Horseheads, NY where he is responsible for research, development and the
next generation of vacuum interrupter designs. Dr. Slade is a Fellow of IEEE.


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