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# White Paper WP131002EN

Effective March 2015 ﻿

Application of 60 Hz rated medium
voltage vacuum circuit breaker at 50 Hz
Introduction

Continuous current ratings

Although ANSI rated medium voltage vacuum
circuit breakers are typically applied to voltages
and currents with a frequency of 60 Hz, the
growing global market increasingly requires circuit
breakers to operate reliably in 50 Hz applications
as well. Figure 1 illustrates how the voltage and
current waves differ for the two frequencies over
time (milliseconds).

One of the most important factors that influence
the rated continuous current is the resistance
of the current carrying conductors. As effective
resistance increases, the heat produced by the
current also increases. Similarly, decreasing
the effective resistance of the current carrying
conductors reduces the heat produced.

For a given amount of time, circuit breakers in
a 60 Hz application will experience more frequent
zero crossings than will circuit breakers in a
50 Hz application.

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50 Hz

Figure 1. Frequency comparison

60 Hz

For a circuit breaker of a specific continuous
current rating, the rated value was primarily
established by measuring the temperature rise of
the current carrying components with the rated
current applied. The stabilized temperature must
have been less than or equal to the maximum
values stated in the relevant test standard.
The material properties of the current carrying
conductors determine the resistance in this
testing. Obviously, the composition of the material
is important, but additionally the surface area of
the current carrying components contributes to
a factor known as the Skin Effect. The electrons
of the continuous current, being of the same
electromagnetic charge, tend to repel each other.
This causes the distribution of the current passing
through the conductors to be concentrated more at
the outer edges (or “skin”) of the conductors than
at the middle of the conductors.
As the frequency of the current increases, the
resistance due to the Skin Effect increases. By
operating a circuit breaker rated for 60 Hz at
50 Hz, the reduced Skin Effect resistance allows
the circuit breaker to run slightly cooler. Therefore,
continuous current performance for a 60 Hz circuit
breaker will be better when operating the circuit
breaker at 50 Hz.

Short circuit ratings
As can be seen in Figure 1, the amount of time
between current zero events is longer for 50 Hz
than it is for 60 Hz. Additionally, the rate of change
of the current is higher for 60 Hz than it is for
50 Hz. These factors must be considered when
evaluating short circuit performances.
The maximum arcing time that is possible during
a short circuit fault at 50 Hz may exceed the 60
Hz tested values by up to 1.7 milliseconds. As a
result, before applying a circuit breaker that has
been rated for 60 Hz into a 50 Hz application,
consideration should be given to the equipment
being protected to ensure that the potential
additional 1.7 milliseconds of arcing time will
not result in unacceptable increased equipment
damage. In most practical applications, this
increase in time is inconsequential.