4, DECEMBER 1980


Experimental Investigation on Arc Phenomena in
SF6 Puffer Circuit Breakers




Abstract-A detailed observation of an arc in a model puffer-type SF6
gas circuit breaker in the current range between 10 and 50 kA (rms)
has been carried out. It was found that the arc column remained stable
on the center axis during the high-current region, then became turbulent near current zero.
It was found that the time interval during which the turbulent arc was
observed decreased with increasing values of the peak current. These
phenomena indicated that the thermal effects of high-current arcs
remain even at current zero.
It also was observed that the arc diameter at the nozzle throat outlet
was smaller than that at the throat (29 mm), even at a current as high
as 70 kA (instantaneous), and that the boundary of gas flow at a downstream region had a very large diameter when the arcs were present.

However, around current zero the boundary diameter became as small
as that without arc.

R ECENTLY, significant progress has been made in research
arcing phenomena in SF6 gas circuit breakers. Supported by the marked progress in optical methods, a considerable amount of actual data has been obtained and reported on
the behavior of arcs [1]-[4].
Using a streak camera, Kogelschatz et al. [II took photographs of arcs around current zero. They reported that the arc
diameter at current zero was about 1 mm.
Hermann et al. [3] observed arcs in the downstream region
and reported that arc columns near current zero were very
turbulent since they were affected by turbulent gas flows.
The results of these measurements and observations offer
significantly effective data for clarification of the breaking
phenomena in a gas circuit breaker. However, the currents in
which the data were obtained were small compared with the
actual short circuit current. Therefore, the arc phenomena at
a high current is still vague.
The authors [2], using a two-pressure circuit breaker, observed 50-Hz arcs to current range of several tens of kA, to
clarify the relationship between nozzle clogging phenomena
and arc diameters. However, the measurements were carried
out on the arcs during only the peak current region. The arcs
near current zero were not intended to be measured in detail.
From these published papers, including the authors' paper,
it is impossible to estimate how the thermal stress induced
during the high-current period would affect arcs near current
zero since the transition phenomena from the high-current
arc to that at low current were not observed.
Furthermore, a puffer breaker, recently developed, has up-


Manuscript received April 3, 1980; revised July 15, 1980.
The authors are with Toshiba Corporation, Kawasaki, Japan.


(i Pixed contact



Teflon nozzle



Moving contact

( Pressure transducer
Fig. 1. Arcing chamber of model puffer breaker.

Pffer Cylinder

Puffer pison

stream pressure that depends greatly upon the operating characteristics of the actuating mechanism and the arc current.
The arc properties of the puffer breaker should substantially
differ from those of the two-pressure breaker. Therefore, the
data which were obtained in the two-pressure-type gas circuit
breaker do not seem to be applicable to the puffer-type
In order to provide a complement to these studies, the
authors fabricated a model puffer-type SF6 gas circuit breaker,
obtained the arc over the current range between 10 and 50 kA
(rms), and measured the arc shape at each stroke between
fixed contact and nozzle throat, the arc diameter at the nozzle
throat outlet, and the arc behavior and the boundary of gas
flow before current zero. The gas flow without arcs also were
observed by the Schlieren method. However, the Schlieren
method was not used for the gas flow with arc due to a measuring difficulty in this experiment.
Fig. I shows the construction of the model circuit breaker
used in the experiment. The breaker has a double-flow nozzle
and is designed to operate in the same manner as a commercial
puffer circuit breaker.
The nozzle throat diameter is 29 mm. The SF6 gas pressure
was kept constant at 6 kg * cm2 throughout the experiments.
In the breaking tests the pressure rise in the puffer cylinder
were measured by a pressure transducer fixed on the inside
wall of the puffer piston. A breaking operation without arc
produces a maximum pressure rise of about 3.2 kg- cm2 in
the puffer cylinder. Gas velocity in the nozzle throat did not
exceed the sonic velocity, as is obvious from the upstream and
downstream pressure ratio.
Since the puffer design made it difficult to observe the arcs

0093-3813/80/1200-0339$00.75 i) 1980 IEEE

Observation on Arcs In this model breaker the arcs could be observed when the edge of the nozzle throat passed through the top of the fixed contact.7 to 09 cycles (14 through 18 ms). The nozzle throat outlet is seen on the right-hand side and the fixed contact on the left-hand side. 7(c). 4 shows the shapes of 10-kA. Photographs by use of schlieren method (8000 frames/s). NO. In Fig. the arcs were observed only in the region between the nozzle throat and the fixed contact. VOL. 2. lower side: nozzle outlet. Fig. Boundary of gas flow without 1 arc. A short circuit generator was used as a current source. Fig.4 kA 4. Fig. 4. on the moving contact side. Fig. In Fig. In order to more easily understand the phenomena. 20 mm Fig. 2 gives examples of high-speed photographs of the gas flows without arc taken by the Schlieren method. Therefore. The shutter speed for the high-speed camera used for observation was about 8000 to 10 000 frames/s. Upper side: fixed contact. 3. at each current of 10 to 50 kA (rms). Gap length 10 mm -ndary f gas flo 50 kA rms -. 30-kA. photographs of the arc could be taken for a longer arcing time.340 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON PLASMA SCIENCE. On the other hand. respectively. RESULTS OF MEASUREMENT Flow Gas Observation by Schlieren Method Fig. The arcing time was adjusted by a multiarc device to be 0. 3. Arc shape at each stroke.3 kA l4 13 Ei _ --____? 42 kA 30 kA rms 22 kA At short stroke Upper side: Lower side: At long stroke Fixed contact Nozzle outlet (a) (b) Fig. the positions of the fixed contact in the figure are illustrated as if the fixed contact were moving. (b) At long stroke. 1 ms before current zero and just before current zero (taken in the last frame of the high-speed camera film). 6 shows the arc diameters which were measured at the nozzle throat outlet in the period of decreasing current below 20 kA. 20 m- Nozzle Fig. The exposure time in this speed was 50 to 40 ps/frame. 7 shows the time variance of the arc shape just before current zero. DECEMBER 1980 14 kA 0. the shapes of gas flow boundary also are illustrated. 4. 8. 5 and 6 should be continuous if they are plotted on the same sheet. (a) At short stroke. Quite naturally the curves shown in Figs. the relation between the flow boundary diameter and the distance from the fixed contact is shown. PS-8. and 50-kA (rms) arc. . 5 shows the arc diameters which were observed at the nozzle throat outlet at the current peak in each tests. More detailed measurements of 45-kA (rms) arc were carried out at the positions shown in Fig. at current peak.3 kA 10 kA rms 1.

# ~ . and the arcing time are 0. and 0. 20 / "._~~~~_. This is clear from the photographs showing the inside of gas flow boundary.8 cycles (16 ms). - ou 20 )(XXX30 A A5O kA rms ~~~~oUG45 30 kA (rms) 20 mm (b) ~~Time 4- 10 Current (kA) to Boundary of gas flow -50 us\ Arc boundary 1. 30 kA (rms). and 50 kA (rms). (a) 75 mm.6 cycles (12 ms). Fig. 8. S. the pressure rise in the puffer cylinder does not reach the maximum value and the gas blasting pressure is still low. A 111/111 /I 1 / I 0 . 11 shows the time variance of the pressure rise in the puffer cylinder during arcing of 10 kA (rms). Fig. with arc current as a parameter. DISCUSSIONS Gas Flow Without Arc From Fig. 0 C 0 j 10 Nozzlethoas ot Flow direction *0/D 5 I /~~ O & a . 45 kA (rms) Nozzle outlet .LeD~~ Fixed contact p .0 kA 20 (Instantaneous value) Pressure Rise in the Puffer Cylinder Fig.8 cycles (16 ms). The stroke curve also is illustrated in the figure. Arc diameters at the nozzle throat outlet as a function of peak current. Intervals between fixed contact and nozzle throat outlet.7 0 -188 560 A -63 p s s \Resul-ts of pre se nt work *0 10 h Results of two pressure model(2) 20 kA (rmss) f) v 10 20 30 50 40 60 (a) 70 Current (kA) Fig.: ARC PHENOMENA IN SF6 PUFFER CIRCUIT BREAKERS 30 20 kA(rms ) i 50 kA (rm s ) 30 kA(rms) kA / 10~~~~~~~~~1. 2 which shows the gas flow without arc. Fig. which contains many dark and bright portions intermixed.15 0 0. Arc diameter at the nozzle throat outlet in the period of decreasing current. because of the shorter gap length between fixed contact and nozzle throat. that. (b) 75 mm.341 KOBAYASHI et al. the turbulence caused by the gas blasted to the top of the fixed contact will be developed to the nozzle throat region.~ -313 ps kA 18. * Nzl ~~~*@10 OO0 0 . respectively. at a shorter stroke. 2) In all cases.+_ ~~~Ar Fig. Another reason is that. 10 shows arc diameters at the nozzle throat outlet when the current is decreasing to zero. (c) 70 before current zero. Arc behavior before current zero: right-hand side: nozzle outlet: left-hand side: fixed contact. the gas density distortion in the flow was observed to be remarkably high. From . k -360 1s -160 is 201- 'I I . 7. 9 shows the time variance of the arc diameters and gas flow boundary diameters for 45-kA (rms) arc beginning 800 . 6. 0. the followings may be discussed. 1) The shape of the gas flow boundary was not uniform between the nozzle throat outlet and the fixed contact at shorter stroke than at longer stroke. It can be considered (c) Fig. Measuring points of arc diameter and boundary of gas flow at 45-kA (rms) arc.

15 Arc Phenomena During High Current 10 I +1 0 C1) 0 5 Time before current zero (psa) Fig. 2) The small current arc decreased its diameter to 2 3 mm before current zero. 5 shows arc diameters at the throat outlet. Furthermore. in the region near the nozzle throat. From Fig. VOL. This phenomena also was reported by Hermann et al. 6 a slight difference in arc diameters (at the nozzle throat outlet) is seen in the current range between 10 kA (rms) and 50 kA (rms). More detailed studies are required. and no subsequent changes in the arc - Fig. 4 the following facts could be identified: 1) During the high-current period.5 mm at 10 kA (instantaneous) and 26 mm at 70 kA (instantaneous). resulting in the arc being forced to take a small diameter. since a transition always occurs around 10 kA. 3. . In Fig. Pressure rise in the puffer cylinder (tank pressure 6 kg 0cm2). For such a high-current level at this throat diameter. However. it may be more reasonable to assume that such variation is the direct result of the property developed in the arc itself. this area is normally called to be clogged [2]. The diameters were 12. The transitions in arc diameter may be slightly associated with nozzle throat diameters. Arc Phenomena Near Current Zero From Fig. the arc diameter was uniform everywhere between the nozzle throat and the fixed contact just before current zero. independent of stroke lengths. when the current decreased to zero. it was found that the boundaries had the same diameter. 4. even on the double pressure model with a 50-mm throat diameter.15 \ fi>\o/50 kA rms 8 . Behaviors of arc in the nozzle throat outlet before current zero.10 20 kA ms 10 kA rms -1000 -800 -400 -600 Time before current zero -200 0 ([is) Fig. PS-8. The boundary diameter increased as the distance to the fixed contact decreased. Arc diameters of different peak currents are about equal at the same current. This may be affected by the smaller throat diameter (29 mm) in the puffer breaker than that (50 mm) in the twopressure breaker. The high-current arc diameter at the downstream region remained considerably larger than that at the nozzle throat. as shown in Fig. Current zero of 10 and 30 kA (rms) arcs Current zero of 50 kA (rms) arc Contact open 200 10 30 10 I PC Stroke ~ Stroke 5OkA(rms ~~~ -> = ~~ ' ~ 1' 40rms) P ~~~~~~A 1OkA(rms) AP 160 _120 0 Time (as ) Fig. However. DECEMBER 1980 342 angle of these gas flows in the direction to the downstream region was almost equal to that of the inside wall of the nozzle throat. The divergent diameter was observed. Nevertheless. 7. 5. the arcs were stable and always stayed on the center axis of the chamber. ^###BOT_TEXT###lt; ~45 kA rms > 1 . 4. 2) At the current peak (70 kA). it was found that the arcs were turbulent and complicatedly curved near current zero. it is estimated from these facts that a relatively thick gas flow layer with low temperature exists between the arc boundary and the inside wall of the nozzle throat. Fig. 9. [3]. 10. 1) The shape of high-current arc remained stable. An arc diameter comparison between the previous [2] and present measurements reveals the arc diameter is smaller in the latter than in the former under the same current condition. 11. It is obvious that the curve has a definite transition around 10 kA and that the diameters of arcs exceeding 10 kA are in good agreement with the curve shown in Fig. even near current zero. The following may be discussed. NO. which was not enough to fill the throat completely.IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON PLASMA SCIENCE. Behaviors of arc and boundary of gas flow before current zero at 45-kA (rms) arc. a significant difference in arc behavior between high current and small current arcs was observed when the current was decreasing to zero. the arc diameter at the nozzle throat outlet was 26 mm.

R. However.. Syst. In a typical case for a 45-kA (rms) arc. C 741855. Iwamoto. Schade. and K. it can be considered that the thermal effects of the high-current arc remain in the downstream region. it is considered that the thermal effect in the downstream region will decrease the breaking ability of TF when the short circuit current is increased. From these facts. On the other hand. respectively. The maximum pressure rise in the 50-kA (rms) arc is lower than that in the 30-kA (rms) arc which has a longer arcing time. [ II. Niemeyer. "Optical measuring techniques as a diagnostic aid in circuit-breaker development. vol. 1977. 10 show a oscillatory decreasing tendency [21 M. In these arcs. 4 and 5. toward current zero. D.1 kg * cm2. Kogelschatz. In our experiment." Final Rep. it is considered that the pressure characteristic depends on not only the chamber structure but also the current value and the arcing time. Because the breaking ability in SLF condition greatly depends upon the pressure value of the upstream region which extremely increases with increase of the arc current in the puffer-type circuit breaker. Ragaller. it can be considered that the thermal effects of high-current arcs remain in the downstream region even at current zero. H. E. which show that the diameter of arc in the nozzle throat outlet increases to that of the throat as the current increases. Noeske. The maximum pressure in 10 kA (rms) and 30 kA (rms) reached to 12.s after current zero. constant layer thicknesses were maintained. L. but irregularly. the post arc phenomena were not measured.2 kg * cm2 and 15. Kobayashi. 9 which shows a detailed measurement on 45-kA (rms) arc. Because Kogelschatz and others [1] reported that the high temperature layer remained during a few hundreds of. U. D. T." downstream region. H. stream 1) The arc diameters decreased not constantly. Pressure Rise in the Puffer Cylinder During Arcing Fig. EPRI EL-284. This fact may lead to the conclusion that arc PAS-95." IEEE Trans. the following may be discussed.. and T. it is possible to discuss about the breaking ability as follows. Brown Boveri Rev. and H. This will suggest that the irregular arc diameters are caused by the turbulent gas Corporation for permitting this publication. "Investigation on the physical phenomena around current tained in the measurements showed no arcs whose diameter was zero in HV gas blast breakers. the arc diameter became small as the current decreased to zero. A. current zero as was described in the paper reported by Kogelshatzetal. 2) The diameter of the gas flow boundary decreased with the ACKNOWLEDGMENT The authors wish to express their appreciation to Toshiba same tendency as that of arcs. even at current zero.. The diameter of the small current arc was uniform everywhere between the nozzle throat and the fixed contact just before current zero. The diameter of the layers also are plotted on curve (c) in Fig. 7. Murano. was completely coincident with the shape of gas flows taken by the Schlieren method without arc. this thermal effect may give much influence upon the terminal fault (TF) breaking ability. and remains constant around flows. "Fundamental investigation of arc interruption in gas less of the current level of arcs. R. REFERENCES 3) The rate of decrease of the arc diameters with time when the current was decreasing to zero became larger on the [11 U. it can be concluded that the periphery of these layers is a boundary between the gas flows and surrounding stationary gas. 0. 1974. Also. flows. Hermann. Nishikawa. Observation of the last frame for several dozens of films ob. From these results. a similar phenomena may occur.[41 G. The thermal effect remaining in the downstream region may not greatly affect the short line fault (SLF) breaking ability. the shape of the layers in the last frame taken before current zero. 1976. . K. no.343 KOBAYASHI etal. This large pressure rise may be caused by a clogging effect of arc in the nozzle throat as is evident from Figs. Especially at the throat outlet. a detailed observation has been carried out on the behavior of 10. Frind. less than 2 mm. Miller.0 (10 kA rms) and 2. Winter Power Meeting. the high-current arc diameter at the downregion remained considerably larger than that at the nozzle throat. PowerAppi. current clogging phenomena in SF6 gas arc. New York. From these results. it is considered that a supersonic flow exists in the downstream region because the pressure ratios of the upperstream side to the downstream side are 2. Kinsinger. Using a puffer-type CONCLUSION model SF6 circuit breaker. "Heavy The curves in Fig. Schmidt. 1974.5 (30 kA rms).[31 W." presented at IEEE of the arc diameter. From this reason. and E. 11. even just before current 50kA (rms) arcs. Further detailed investigation may be necessary.: ARC PHENOMENA IN SF6 PUFFER CIRCUIT BREAKERS From these results. In the arc behavior before current zero a significant difference was found between high current and low current arcs. E. Kogelschatz. 11 shows that the pressure rises in the puffer cylinder during arcing are much larger than that without arc. Schade. In the present work. but the diameter of this layer remained almost unchanged. On the other hand. From Fig. In the high-current arc a distinct layer was observed on the outside of the arc core even though its brightness was much thinner than the core. Nagamatsu. diameter decreases to a few mm just before current zero regard.