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A presentation

Circuit Breaker
What is Circuit Breaker?

Electrical Circuit Breaker is a switching device which
can be operated manually as well as automatically
for controlling and protection of electrical power
system respectively. As the modern power system
deals with huge currents, the special attention
should be given during designing of circuit
breaker to safe interruption of arc produced during
the operation of circuit breaker.

Working Principle of Circuit Breaker

Mechanical Working:-The circuit breaker mainly consists of
fixed contacts and moving contacts. In normal "on" condition
of circuit breaker, these two contacts are physically connected
to each other due to applied mechanical pressure on the
moving contacts.
There is an arrangement stored potential energy in
the operating mechanism of circuit breaker which is realized
if switching signal given to the breaker. The potential energy
can be stored in the circuit breaker by different ways like by
deforming metal spring, by compressed air, or by hydraulic
But whatever the source of potential energy, it must be
released during operation. Release of potential energy makes
sliding of the moving contact at extremely fast manner.

All circuit breaker have operating coils (tripping
system and closing system), whenever these coils
are energized by switching pulse, and the plunger
inside them displaced.
Electrical Working: - The circuit breaker has to carry
large rated or fault power. Due to this large power
there is always dangerously high arcing between
moving contacts and fixed contact during operation
of circuit breaker.
Again as we discussed earlier the arc in circuit
breaker can be quenching safely if the dielectric
strength between the current carrying contacts of
circuit breaker increases rapidly during every
current zero crossing of the alternating current.

The dielectric strength of the media in between
contacts can be increased in numbers of ways, like
Compressing the ionized arcing media
Cooling the arcing media: since cooling increase the
resistance of arcing path.
Replacing the ionized arcing media by fresh gasses.
Types of Circuit Breaker

According different criteria there are different types
of circuit breaker
A) According to their arc quenching media the
circuit breaker can be divided as-
1) Oil Circuit Breaker
2) Air Circuit Breaker
3) SF6 Circuit Breaker
4) Vacuum Circuit Breaker

B) According to their services the circuit breaker can
be divided as-
1) Outdoor Circuit Breaker
2) Indoor Breaker
c) According to the operating mechanism of circuit
breaker they can be divided as-
1) Spring operated Circuit Breaker
2) Pneumatic Circuit Breaker
3) Hydraulic Circuit Breaker

D) According to the voltage level of installation types
of circuit breaker are referred as
1) High Voltage Circuit Breaker
2) Medium Voltage Circuit Breaker
3) Low Voltage Circuit Breaker

Low Voltage circuit breaker-
Miniature circuit breaker (MCB)
Molded control circuit breaker (MCCB)

Medium-voltage circuit breakers-
Air break circuit breaker
Vacuum circuit breaker
SF6 Circuit breaker

High-voltage circuit breakers
Minimum oil circuit breaker
Bulk oil circuit breaker
Air blast circuit breaker
Vacuum circuit breaker
SF6 circuit breaker
Miniature circuit breaker (MCB)

Rated current up to 100 Amp.
With protection release in microprocessor, thermal-
magnetic and only magnetic.
Trip current may be adjustable.

Technical Specification of MCB-
Current Rating-6, 10, 16, 25, 32,40, 63 & 100 Amps.
Rated Voltage up to 415V
Breaking Capacity- 10KA
Electrical Life- 20,000 operations
Mechanical Life- 100,000 operations.
Thermal or thermal-magnetic operation.

Main Component of MCB:-
The design includes the
following components:-
1) Actuator lever
2) Actuator mechanism
3) Contacts
4) Terminals
5) Bimetallic strip.
6) Calibration screw
7) Solenoid
8) Arc divider/extinguisher
Function of different components:
1) Actuator lever - used to manually trip and reset the
circuit breaker. Also indicates the status of the circuit
breaker (On or Off/tripped).
Most breakers are designed so they can still trip even if
the lever is held or locked in the "on" position. This is
sometimes referred to as "free trip" or "positive trip"

2) Actuator mechanism - forces the contacts together or

3) Contacts - Allow current when touching and break the
current when moved apart.

4) Terminals

5) Bimetallic strip.

6) Calibration screw - allows the manufacturer to
precisely adjust the trip current of the device after

7) Solenoid

8) Arc divider/extinguisher- Provides the high
resistance path to fault current so that the current is
dissipated and arc will extinguish.

MCCB (Moulded Case Circuit Breaker):

Rated current up to 2500 A.
Trip current may be adjustable.
Thermal or thermal-magnetic operation.

Operation of MCB & MCCB-
1) Thermal operation
2) Thermal-magnetic operation.

Air Blast Circuit Breaker:-
Rated current up to 10,000 A.
Trip characteristics are often fully adjustable including
configurable trip thresholds and delays.
Usually electronically controlled, though some models
are microprocessor controlled via an integral electronic
trip unit.
Often used for main power distribution in large
industrial plant, where the breakers are arranged in
draw-out enclosures for ease of maintenance.
Air Blast Circuit Breaker:-
Features of Air blast circuit breaker:-
Fast Response.
Suitability of repetition operation.
Auto reclosure.
Modest maintenance.
Multi break construction.
Compressed air is needed for operation.
Air pressure 20-30kg/ is needed.
Main parts of Air blast circuit breaker:-
Fixed contacts
Moving contacts with spring tension
Auxiliary contacts
Spring & Piston
Hollow insulator
Pneumatic valve

Types of Air blast circuit breaker-
1) Axial Blast Air Circuit Breaker
2) Cross Blast Air Circuit Breaker

Axial Blast Air Circuit Breaker
In axial blast air circuit breaker the moving contact is in
contact with fixed contact with the help of a spring pressure
as shown in the figure. There is a nozzle orifice in the fixed
contact which is blocked by tip of the moving contact at
normal closed condition of the breaker. When fault occurs,
the high pressure air is introduced into the arcing chamber.
The air pressure will counter the spring pressure and deforms
the spring hence the moving contact is withdrawn from the
fixed contact and nozzle hole becomes open. At the same
time the high pressure air starts flowing along the arc through
the fixed contact nozzle orifice. This axial flow of air along the
arc through the nozzle orifice will make the arc lengthen and
colder hence arc voltage become much higher than system
voltage that means system voltage is insufficient to sustain
the arc consequently the arc is quenched.

Sequence of operation in ACB
Cross Blast Air Circuit Breaker
The working principle of cross blast air circuit breaker is quite
simple. In this system of air blast circuit breaker the blast pipe
is fixed in perpendicular to the movement of moving contact
in the arcing chamber and on the opposite side of the arcing
chamber one exhaust chamber is also fitted at the same
alignment of blast pipe, so that the air comes from blast pipe
can straightly enter into exhaust chamber through the contact
gap of the breaker. The exhaust chamber is spit with arc
splitters. When moving contact is withdrawn from fixed
contact, an arc is established in between the contact, and at
the same time high pressure air coming from blast pipe will
pass through the contact gap and will forcefully take the arc
into exhaust chamber where the arc is split with the help of
arc splitters and ultimately arc is quenched.

Oil filled Circuit breaker-
Mineral oil is used as arc extinguisher medium.
There are two types of oil filled circuit breake-
1) Minimum oil C.B.
2) Bulk Oil C.B.

Such circuit breakers utilize dielectric oil (transformer
oil) for arc extinction.
In bulk oil circuit breakers, the contacts are separated
inside a steel filled with dielectric oil.
In minimum oil circuit breakers, the contacts are
separated in an insulation housing (interrupter)filled
with dielectric oil.

The oil in oil circuit breakers( OCBs) serves two
1) It insulates between the phases and between the phases
and the ground.
2) it provides the medium for the extinguishing of the arc.

Tank type or Bulk Oil Circuit Breaker-

Bulk oil circuit breakers are enclosed in metal-grounded
weatherproof tanks that are referred to as dead tanks.
The tank type circuit breakers had 3 separate tanks for
72.5 KV and above.
For 36 KV and below, single tank construction, phase
barriers were provided between phase.

115 KV
Bulk oil
66 KV
oil C.B.
Internal view of Bulk oil C.B.-
When electric arc is drawn under oil, the arc vaporizes
the oil and creates a large bubble that surround the arc.

The gas inside the bubble is around 80% hydrogen,
which impairs ionization.

The decomposition of oil into gas requires energy that
comes from the heat generated by the arc.

The oil surrounding the bubble conducts the heat away
from the arc and thus also contributes to deionization
of the arc.

Minimum Oil Circuit Breaker (MOCB)-
This type is also known as poor oil or small oil circuit
In the bulk oil circuit breakers, the oil serves as both arcs
extinguishing medium and main insulation.
The minimum oil circuit breakers were developed to
reduce the oil volume only to amount needed for
extinguishing the arc - about 10% of bulk oil amount.
The arc control for the minimum oil breakers is based on
the same principle as the arc control devices of the bulk
oil breakers.
To improve breaker performance, oil is injected into the

vent valve
terminal pad
oil level indicator
moving contact
lower fixed contact
separating piston
terminal pad
upper drain valve
lower drain valve

In MOCB, The current interruption takes place inside
The enclosure of the interrupter is made of insulating
material, like porcelain.
Hence, the clearance between the line and the enclosure
can be reduced and lesser quantity of oil would be
required for internal insulation.
The interrupter containers of the minimum oil circuit
breakers are insulated from the ground.
This is usually referred to as live tank construction.
For high voltage (above 132 KV), The interrupter are
arranged in series.

Disadvantage of Oil Circuit Breakers

The decomposed products of dielectric oil are
inflammable and explosive. If the oil circuit breaker is
unable to break the fault current, the pressure in the
tank may rise above safe limit and explosion may
occur. This does not happen in SF6, ABCB, and
vacuum C.B.

The oil absorbs moisture readily. The dielectric
strength reduces by carbonization which occur
during arcing. The oil needs replacement after a
certain breaker operations. It needs regular

Oil is not a suitable medium for breakers which have to
operate repeatedly. Breakers used for furnaces, railways,
industrial loads etc., operate frequently. Oil circuit
breakers are unsuitable because oil gets deteriorated.

The oil leakage, losses, replacement and purification is
often troublesome. Hence oil circuit breakers involve
more maintenance.

Vacuum Circuit Breaker-
Vacuum Circuit Breaker-
The vacuum circuit breaker comprises one or more
sealed vacuum interrupter units per pole.

The moving contact in the interrupter is connected to
insulating operating rod linked with the opening

The contact travel is of the order of a few millimeters

The movement of the contacts within the sealed
interrupter unit is permitted by metal-bellows.

Vacuum circuit breakers can be classified
in the following two categories:

1) Vacuum interrupters installed in indoor switchgear and
kiosks rated up to 36 KV

2) Vacuum circuit breakers suitable for outdoor
installation and having two or more interrupters
in series per pole.

Working of VCB-
Merits of Vacuum Circuit Breaker-
VCB is self contained and does not need filling of gas or oil.
They do not need auxiliary air system, oil handling system,
etc. No need for periodic refilling.

No emission of gases, pollution free.

Modest maintenance of the breaker, no maintenance of
interrupters. Hence economical over long period.

Breakers forms a unit which can be installed at any required
orientation. Breaker unit is compact and self contained.


Merits of Vacuum Circuit Breaker-

Long life of the order of several hundred operations on
rated normal current.
Constant dielectric. There are no gas decomposition
products in vacuum and the hermetically sealed vacuum
interrupter keeps out all environmental effect.
Constant contact resistance. In vacuum, the contacts
cannot be oxidized, a fact which ensures that their very
small resistance is maintained through their life.
High total current switched. Since contact piece erosion
is small, rated normal interrupted current is up to
30.000 times; and rated short circuit breaking current is
on the average of a hundred times.

Demerits of Vacuum Circuit Breaker-

The vacuum interrupter is more expensive than the
interrupter devices in other types of interrupters and its
cost is affected by production volume. It is uneconomical
to manufacturer vacuum interrupters in small
Rated voltage of single interrupter is limited until very
recently to about 363 = 20 KV above 36 KV, tow
interrupters are required to be connected in series. This
makes the breaker uneconomical for voltage rated above
36 KV.
Vacuum interrupters required high technology for

Demerits of Vacuum Circuit Breaker-

In the event of loss of vacuum, due to transient damage
or failure, the entire interrupter is rendered useless. It
cannot be required at site.
For interrupter low magnetizing currents, in certain
range, additional surge suppressors are required in
parallel with phase of a VCB.

Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6) Circuit

Sulpher hexafluoride (SF6) is an inert, heavy gas having
good dielectric and arc extinguishing properties.
The dielectric strength of the gas increases with
pressure and is more than that of dielectric oil at
pressure of 3 kg/cm
Several types of SF6 circuit breakers have been
developed by various manufacturers in the world, for
rated voltage from 3.6 to 760 KV. However, at present
they are generally preferred for voltages above 72.5 KV.
SF6 gas insulated metal clad switchgear comprises
factory assembled metal clad, substation equipment like
circuit breakers, isolators, earthling switches, bus bars,
These are filled with SF6 gas . Such sub-stations are
compact and are being favored in densely populated
urban areas.

Sulphur hexafluoride gas is prepared by burning
coarsely crushed roll sulphur in the fluorine gas, in a
steel box, provided with staggered horizontal shelves,
each bearing about 4 kg of sulphur.
The steel box is made gas-tight. The gas thus obtained
contains other fluoride such as S
, SF
must be
purified further.
SF6 gas is generally supplied by chemical firms. The cost
of gas is low if manufactured on a large scale.
The gas is transported in liquid from in cylinders. Before
filling the gas, the circuit breaker is evacuated to the
pressure of about 4 mm of mercury so as to remove the
moisture and air. The gas is then filled in the circuit
breaker. The gas can be reclaimed by the gas-handling

Types of SF6 Circuit Breaker

There are mainly three types of SF6 circuit
breaker depending upon the voltage level of
1) Single Interrupter SF6 Circuit Breaker applied for
up to 245KV(220KV) system
2) Two Interrupter SF6 Circuit Breaker applied for
up to 420KV(400KV) system
3) Four Interrupter SF6 Circuit Breaker applied for
up to 800KV(715KV) system

Working of SF6 Circuit Breaker

The working of SF6 circuit Breaker of first generation
was quite simple it is some extent similar to air blast
circuit breaker. Here SF6 gas was compressed and
stored in a high pressure reservoir. During operation of
SF6 circuit breaker this highly compressed gas is
released through the arc and collected to relatively low
pressure reservoir and then it pumped back to the high
pressure reservoir for reutilize.
The working of SF6 circuit breaker is little bit different
in modern time. Innovation of buffer type design
makes operation of SF6 circuit breaker much easier. In
buffer type design, the arc energy is utilized to develop
pressure in the arcing chamber for arc quenching.
Here the breaker is filled with SF6 gas at rated
pressure. There are two fixed contact fitted with a
specific contact gap. A sliding cylinder bridges these
to fixed contacts. The cylinder can axially slide
upward and downward along the contacts. There is
one stationary piston inside the cylinder which is
fixed with other stationary parts of the breaker, in
such a way that it can not change its position during
the movement of the cylinder. As the piston is fixed
and cylinder is movable or sliding, the internal
volume of the cylinder changes when the cylinder

During opening of the breaker the cylinder moves
downwards against position of the fixed piston
hence the volume inside the cylinder is reduced
which produces compressed SF6 gas inside the
cylinder. The cylinder has numbers of side vents
which were blocked by upper fixed contact body
during closed position. As the cylinder move further
downwards, these vent openings cross the upper
fixed contact, and become unblocked and then
compressed SF6 gas inside the cylinder will come
out through this vents in high speed towards the arc
and passes through the axial hole of the both fixed
contacts. The arc is quenched during this flow of
SF6 gas.

During closing of the breaker, the sliding cylinder
moves upwards and as the position of piston
remains at fixed height, the volume of the cylinder
increases which introduces low pressure inside the
cylinder compared to the surrounding. Due to this
pressure difference SF6 gas from surrounding will
try to enter in the cylinder. The higher pressure gas
will come through the axial hole of both fixed
contact and enters into cylinder via vent and during
this flow; the gas will quench the arc.