Circuit Breaker - Arc Interruption

Arc Interruption

Miniature low-voltage circuit breakers use air alone to extinguish the arc. Larger ratings have metal plates or non-metallic arc chutes to divide and cool the arc. Magnetic blowout coils or permanent magnets deflect the arc into the arc chute.

In larger ratings, oil circuit breakers rely upon vaporization of some of the oil to blast a jet of oil through the arc.

Gas (usually sulfur hexafluoride) circuit breakers sometimes stretch the arc using a magnetic field, and then rely upon the dielectric strength of the sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) to quench the stretched arc.

Vacuum circuit breakers have minimal arcing (as there is nothing to ionize other than the contact material), so the arc quenches when it is stretched a very small amount (<2–3 mm). Vacuum circuit breakers are frequently used in modern medium-voltage switchgear to 35,000 volts.

Air circuit breakers may use compressed air to blow out the arc, or alternatively, the contacts are rapidly swung into a small sealed chamber, the escaping of the displaced air thus blowing out the arc.

Circuit breakers are usually able to terminate all current very quickly: typically the arc is extinguished between 30 ms and 150 ms after the mechanism has been tripped, depending upon age and construction of the device.

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