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5 Copper Busbar Jointing Methods

Posted Jun 17 2015 by Edvard in Energy and Power with 5 Comments

5 Copper Busbar Jointing

Methods (photo credit:

Efficient joints in copper busbar conductors

Efficient joints in copper busbar conductors can be made very simply by:
1. Bolting

2. Clamping
3. Riveting
4. Soldering
5. Welding

Bolting and clamping are used extensively on-site. Shaped busbars may be prefabricated by using friction stir welding.

1. Bolted joints (most common)

Bolted joints are formed by overlapping the bars and bolting through the overlap area. They are compact, reliable and versatile but have the
disadvantage that holes must be drilled or punched through the conductors, causing some distortion of the current flow in the bar.
Bolted joints also tend to have a less uniform contact pressure than those made by clamping but, despite these issues, bolted
joints are very commonly used and have proven to be reliable.

They can be assembled on-site without difficulty.

Figure 1 A typical bolted joint

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2. Clamped joints (most common)

Clamped joints are formed by overlapping the bars and applying an external clamp around the overlap. Since there are no bolt holes, the current
flow is not disturbed resulting in lower joint resistance. The extra mass at the joint helps to reduce temperature excursions under cyclic loads.
Well-designed clamps give an even contact pressure and are easy to assemble, but take up more space than a bolted joint and are more expensive to

Figure 2 A simple clamped joint

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3. Riveted joints (difficult, but)

Riveted joints are similar to bolted joints. They can be efficient if well made. It is difficult to control the contact pressure. They cannot easily
be dismantled or tightened in service and they are difficult to install.

Figure 3 A riveted joint

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4. Soldered or brazed joints (rare)

Soldered or brazed joints are rarely used for busbars unless they are reinforced with bolts or clamps since heating under short-circuit
conditions can make them both mechanically and electrically unsound.

Figure 4 A soldered joint

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5. Welded joints (not very safe)

Welded joints are made by butting the ends of the bars and welding. They are compact and have the advantage that the current-carrying capacity is
unimpaired, as the joint is effectively a continuous copper conductor. However, it may not be safe or desirable to make welded joints in situ.
Welding of copper is discussed in Copper Development Association Publication 98, Cost-Effective Manufacturing: Joining of Copper and
Copper Alloys (Download here).

Figure 5 A welded joint

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Joint Resistance Calculation

In principle, a clamped or bolted joint is made by bringing together two flat surfaces under controlled (and maintained) pressure, as shown in Figure

Figure 6 An overlapped joint

The resistance of a joint is mainly dependent on two factors:

1. The streamline effect or spreading resistance, Rs, due to the diversion of the current flow through the joint
2. The contact resistance or interface resistance of the joint, Ri.

The total joint resistance, Rj, is given by:

Rj = Rs+ Ri
This applies specifically to direct current applications. Where alternating currents are flowing, the changes in resistance due to skin and
proximity effects in the joint zone must also be taken into account.
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Reference // Copper for Busbars Guidance for Design and Installation Copper Development Association (Download guidance

Electromagnetic Stresses On Busbar System

Posted Apr 2 2014 by Edvard in Energy and Power with 7 Comments

Electromagnetic Stresses On
Busbar System (photo credit:

When a conductor carries a current it creates a magnetic field which interacts with any other magnetic field present to produce a force. When the
currents flowing in two adjacent conductors are in the same direction the force is one of attraction, and when the currents are in opposite directions a
repulsive force is produced.
In most busbar systems the current-carrying conductors are usually straight and parallel to one another.
The force produced by the two conductors is proportional to the products of their currents.

Normally in most busbar systems the forces are very small and can be neglected, but under short-circuit conditions, they become large and must be
taken into account together with the conductor material fibre stresses when designing the conductor insulator and its associated supports to ensure
adequate safety factors.
The factors to be taken into account may be summarised as follows:
1. Stresses due to direct lateral attractive and repulsive forces.
2. Vibrational stresses.
3. Longitudinal stresses resulting from lateral deflection.
4. Twisting moments due to lateral deflection.

In most cases the forces due to short-circuits are applied very suddenly. Direct currents give rise to unidirectional forces while alternating currents
produce vibrational forces.

Maximum stresses

When a busbar system is running normally the interphase forces are normally very small with the static weight of the busbars being the dominant
Under short-circuit conditions this is very often not the case as the current rises to a peak of some thirty times its normal value, falling after a few
cycles to ten times its initial value.
These high transitory currents create large mechanical forces not only in the busbars themselves but also in their supporting system.
This means that the support insulators and their associated steelwork must be designed to withstand these high loads as well as
their normal structural requirements such as wind, ice, seismic and static loads.

The peak or fully asymmetrical short circuit current is dependent on the power factor (cos ) of the busbar system and its associated connected
electrical plant. The value is obtained by multiplying the r.m.s. symmetrical current by the appropriate factor given in Balanced three-phase shortcircuit stresses.
If the power factor of the system is not known then a factor of 2.55 will normally be close to the actual system value especially where generation is
concerned. Note that the theoretical maximum for this factor is 22 or 2.828 where cos = 0. These peak values reduce exponentially and after
approximately 10 cycles the factor falls to 1.0, i.e., the symmetrical r.m.s. short circuit current.
The peak forces therefore normally occur in the first two cycles (0.04 s) as shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1 Short-circuit current waveform

In the case of a completely asymmetrical current wave, the forces will be applied with a frequency equal to that of the supply frequency and with a
double frequency as the wave becomes symmetrical. Therefore in the case of a 50 Hz supply these forces have frequencies of 50 or 100 Hz.
The maximum stresses to which a bus structure is likely to be subjected would occur during a short-circuit on a single-phase busbar system in which
the line short-circuit currents are displaced by 180.
In a three-phase system a short-circuit between two phases is almost identical to the single- phase case and although the
phase currents are normally displaced by 120, under short-circuit conditions the phase currents of the two phases are almost
180 out of phase. The effect of the third phase can be neglected.

In a balanced three-phase short-circuit, the resultant forces on any one of the three phases is less than in the single-phase case and is dependent
on the relative physical positions of the three phases.

In the case of a single-phase short-circuit, the forces produced are unidirectional and are therefore more severe than those due to a three-phase shortcircuit, which alternate in direction. The short-circuit forces have to be absorbed first by the conductor. The conductor therefore must have an
adequate proof strength to carry these forces without permanent distortion.
Copper satisfies this requirement as it has high strength compared with other conductor materials (Table 2 below).
Table 2 Typical relative properties of copper and aluminium
Properties of Cu and Al


Aluminium (1350)


Electrical conductivity (annealed)




Electrical resistivity (annealed)






/ C




Coefficient of expansion

17 x 106

23 x 106

/ C

Tensile strength (annealed)

200 250

50 60


Tensile strength (halfhard)

260 300

85 100


0.2% proof stress (annealed)

50 55

20 30


0.2% proof stress (halfhard)

170 200

60 65


Elastic modulu

116 130



Temperature coefficient of
Thermal conductivity at 20C

Specific heat



J/kg K





Melting point



Because of the high strength of copper, the insulators can be more widely spaced than is possible with lower-strength materials.

Methods of reducing conductor stresses

In cases where there is a likelihood of vibration at normal currents or when subjected to short- circuit forces causing damage to the conductor, the
following can he used to reduce or eliminate the effect:
a) Reduce the span between insulator supports.

This method can be used to reduce the effects of both continuous vibration and that due to short-circuit forces.
b) Increase the span between insulator supports.

This method can only be used to reduce the effects of vibration resulting from a continuous current. It will increase the stresses due to a short-circuit
c) Increase or decrease the flexibility of the conductor supports.

This method will reduce the effects of vibration due to continuous current but has very little effect on that due to short-circuit forces.
d) Increase the conductor flexibility.

This can only be used to reduce the effects of vibration due to a continuous current. The short-circuit effect is increased.
e) Decrease the conductor flexibility.

This method will reduce the effects of vibration due to either a continuous current or a short-circuit.

It will be noted that in carrying out the various suggestions above, changes can only be made within the overall
design requirements of the busbar system.

Reference: Fundamentals of Power System Protection