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39th CIGRE Session, Paris, France, 25. - 30.

August 2002

21, rue d'Artois, F-75008 Paris 13-202 Session 2002

Double and Single-Break Vacuum Interrupters for High Voltage Application

- Experiences on Real High-Voltage Demonstration-Tubes -

S. Giere, Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany

H. Knobloch, Siemens AG, Berlin, Germany
J. Sedlacek*, University of West Bohemia, Plzen, Czech Republic

required in such systems, have almost completely

SUMMARY displaced other switching media from the medium
High voltage switchgear applications often use the gas- voltage range.
blast system normally based on SF6 as an arc- Today it is becoming increasingly interesting to find out
extinguishing medium. This paper describes switching whether this concept is transferable to the high-voltage
and dielectric experiments with vacuum demonstration level or not. Up to now this level has been dominated by
tubes for the 84 kV voltage level. The investigations gas-blast systems with SF6 as insulating and arc-
were performed with two different tube designs. The extinguishing medium. Since the Kyoto summit on
difference between these objects is the number of climate change 1997, SF6 is classified as a potential
breaker units per tube and slight deviations in the greenhouse-gas, but as an arc-quenching gas is
shielding arrangement. practically irreplaceable for every high-voltage
The tubes were tested under different switching switchgear at present.
conditions, especially terminal fault, short-line fault, There are several reasons that have prevented the
capacitive and inductive current switching. The transmission of the vacuum technology to the high-
switching results of double and single-break units were voltage levels up to now, one of them being the higher
discussed. In addition to the pure switching costs for the vacuum interrupter compared with an SF6
experiments, the dielectric strength after these tests was interrupter. Also the discussion about the emission of X-
determined. rays and the over proportional need of contact
The dielectric experiments show the gain of dielectric separation for higher dielectric strength are further
strength caused by conditioning effects and were carried reasons. Experiments in the past have shown that it is
out with alternating voltage (AC voltage) and lightning possible to extend the positive vacuum-properties from
impulse voltage (LIV). the medium-voltage to the high-voltage range [1]. Thus,
for several years now vacuum tubes for 72.5 kV and
KEYWORDS 40 kA, and for 84 kV and 31.5 kA respectively, have
Kyoto summit - vacuum circuit-breaker - high voltage - been available [2, 3].
high current - switching experiments - dielectric However there are several tasks which make the use of
vacuum promising for arc-interruption at least in the
experiments - contacts conditioning - X-ray emission
low high-voltage range: For vacuum interrupters the rise
of dielectric resistance after current zero is very high. A
vacuum switchgear is completely maintenance free and
Medium-voltage switchgear applications often use the number of operating cycles is very high (life
vacuum to cope with the demands. The outstanding time-determining is the drive-mechanism). One big
characteristics of this medium in terms of control of advantage is the relatively small drive energy of a
short-circuit currents, in combination with good vacuum interrupter compared with an SF6 interrupter
dielectric properties and the minimal maintenance effort because of relatively low contact speed and stroke.

Ing. Jan Sedlacek, Ph.D., University of West Bohemia, Univerzitni 8, 30614 Plzen, Czech Republic.
This paper deals with test results gained on real vacuum stronger axial magnetic field) lead to a more
demonstration tubes for 84 kV and 40 kA short-circuit complicated mechanical tube design. The design of the
currents, considering the requirements of the new IEC single-break unit is simpler but it might be necessary to
standard [4]. Modern switchgear applications call for create a special sequence of motions to ensure the
not only a high breaking capability; capacitive and low necessary axial magnetic field. Another important
inductive current switching are also important duties. advantage of the double-break unit is the recovery of
dielectric strength (after current zero) for switching
2. BASIC CONSIDERATIONS short-circuit currents, because the relative rate of rise of
The good breaking capability of vacuum switchgear is dielectric strength is higher at lower contact separation
the reason for its prominent position in the medium- figures [7].
voltage range. AMF (Axial Magnetic Field) contacts
assure the highest possible breaking capability in 3. SWITCHING EXPERIMENTS
vacuum. The breaking capability of AMF contacts is
primarily dependent on their diameter [5]. With the aid 3.1. Breaking capability
of this contact geometry and special CuCr contact For breaking high currents two cases have to be
materials it is possible to break currents of up to 200 kA considered, short-line fault and terminal fault switching.
[6]. Short-line fault tests are expressive regarding the
With increasing contact separation the ability of the thermal switching capability, and terminal fault tests
AMF contacts to keep the arc diffuse is lowered, but to describe the dielectric switching capability. To test the
control the TRV (Transient Recovery Voltage) breaking capability a synthetic test circuit was used. In
sufficiently large contact separation is absolutely accordance with IEC [4], the rate of rise of recovery
essential. The contradictive nature of these two demands voltage for short-line fault testing is much higher than
was the reason for testing and comparing the suitability for terminal fault testing.
of a double and a single-break unit for the high-voltage
level. This consideration leads to the assumption already 3.1.1. Terminal fault tests
that the double-break unit has certain advantages in
terms of breaking capability. The recovery voltage at the test object was applied by
voltage injection. To arrive at longer arcing times than
1 2
10 ms (for a 50 Hz current half wave), a pre-current was
used of about 1 kA. With this the contacts were pre-
6 stressed.
The requirements imposed on the vacuum switchgear in
terms of TRV are in accordance with the IEC standard
4 [4]. The rated and tested values for the TRV are shown
in Tab. 1.
3 5 5
2 2 84 kV (1)
U TRV = k pp k af
4 3
kpp = First pole to clear factor: 1.3
4 3 kaf = Amplitude factor: 1.4

3 Tested IEC standard

6 6 values (T100, 100 kV) [4]
Peak value of TRV 144 kV 144 kV
Rate of rise of
Fig. 1: High-voltage Fig. 2: High-voltage 2.5 kV/s 2 kV/s
recovery voltage
vacuum tube with vacuum tube with single-
Tab. 1: TRV values for the test objects (terminal fault
double-break unit break unit
c = Movable contact f = AMF contacts
d = Fixed contact g = Insulating ceramic
Up to a certain limit of contact separation the switching
e = Vapour condensation h = Bellows
behaviour of vacuum tubes with AMF contacts is
uncritical. If the limit is reached the mode of the
Figs. 1 and 2 show the principal designs of the two
vacuum arc changes. The diffuse arc mode migrates to a
vacuum tubes. For the double-break unit a contact
constricted arc mode. In this way the maximum
separation of 220 mm was created, and for the single-
breaking capacity of a vacuum tube with AMF contacts
break unit a separation of 50 mm. The intended contact
is reached with the contraction of the arc. The
separation results primarily from the dielectric
constricted vacuum arc is characterised by an oscillating
requirements. The advantages of the double-break unit
arc voltage with relatively high voltage values. It is
regarding the relatively small contact separation (and
possible to reach some hundred volts. Fig. 3 shows the characterise regions of failed and successful tests. For
change from the diffuse to the constricted vacuum arc. small arcing times up to 5 ms the insufficient contact
The constricted arc occurs at arcing times separation causes restrikes (minimum arcing time). The
between 13 ms and 15 ms where a pre-stress of the electrical field between the contacts is too high; a failure
contacts with a pre-current becomes necessary. is unavoidable because of the field emission. With
longer arcing times corresponding to larger contact
V 20 100
separations the tests are successful for the present.
pre-current current loop kA
0 00
-20 -100 kA
-40 -200
arc voltage

diffuse arc 40

-60 -300

-80 -400

r.m.s. terminal fault


-100 -500 25

-120 -600 20
constricted arc
-140 -700 15
successful tests

-160 -800 10 failed tests

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18
ms 5
arcing time
Fig. 3: 40 kA (r.m.s) current and arc voltage for 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20

arcing time ms
different arcing times of a single-break unit
Fig. 5: Terminal fault test results of the single-break
20 100
V pre current current loop kA
0 00
-20 -100

-40 -200 40
arc voltage


-60 -300 35
diffuse arc
r.m.s. terminal fault

-80 -400 30

-100 -500 successful tests
-120 -600 failed tests
constricted arc 15
late restrikes
-140 -700

-160 -800 5
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18
arcing time ms 0
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
Fig. 4: 40 kA (r.m.s.) current and arc voltage for arcing time

different arcing times of a double-break unit Fig. 6: Terminal fault test results of the double-break
Fig. 4 shows the arc voltage of a double-break unit in
comparison to Fig. 3. Due to the series connection of the With increasing arc duration, also the thermal stress of
two gaps, the duplication of the arc voltage could be the contacts rises. At extended arcing times this results
expected theoretically. The direct comparison of the arc in failures. The failures are caused by a thermal
voltage (between double and single-break unit) makes overloading of the AMF contacts. This point marks the
clear that the arc voltage of the double-break unit is not maximum arcing time for the arrangement which is due
only twice as high as the values gained with the single- to the contact geometry and the current. A clear sign of
break unit, but also that a smaller time sequence of the a thermal overload of the contacts is the strongly
constricted arc occurs. This leads to the statement that oscillating arc voltage (Figs. 3 and 4). The maximum
the double-break unit copes more easily with high arcing time in connection with the height of the short-
currents and high arcing times than the single-break circuit current represents a characteristic critical charge
unit. Considering the different arc voltage behavior for each contact system. This critical charge is higher
(Figs. 3 and 4), reflecting the limit breaking capability for the double-break unit which is able to master 40 kA
which will be confirmed by test results, the conclusion and 45 kA short-circuit currents with relatively large
can be made that the double-break unit can master the arcing times. With this, the higher arc-extinguishing
short-circuit currents much more effectively. The capability of the double-break unit, which was already
constricted arc phase of the single-break unit is longer expected from the arc voltage courses, is confirmed.
than that of the double-break unit. This could be a result Fig. 6 shows the characteristic of vacuum switchgear to
of the different contact motions. create late restrikes which can occur some ms after
Figs. 5 and 6 show results of breaking tests under current zero. Two restrikes occurred at 37 kA and
terminal fault conditions for different arcing times and around 15 ms arcing time. The repetition of each test
short-circuit currents. A distinction is made between with such a late restrike led to successful interruptions.
successful and failed tests. Generally three areas With an increasing test frequency it was possible to
become apparent in the diagrams. These areas reduce the number of late restrikes. The cause of these
restrikes might be particles which occurred in asymmetrical current with appropriate test conditions
combination with mechanical vibrations of the drive leads to a comfortable arcing time window.
mechanism. kA

For both systems a minimal arcing time of 4 ms is

needed to ensure successful tests. The requirement of an
arcing time window of 10 ms at 40 kA is met by both 10 ms

the double and the single-break unit.

current peak value


20 successful tests
90 failed tests
80 10

60 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18

arcing time ms
mid potential


40 Fig. 8: Switching results with asymmetrical

30 short-circuit currents of the single-break unit

10 3.1.3. Short-line fault tests

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 For short-line fault tests current injection was used. The
arcing time ms
following values were applied for 40 kA (r.m.s.) short-
Fig. 7: Mid potential of the double-break unit in 40 kA line fault conditions with the synthetic test circuit:
50 Hz 50 Hz IEC 60 Hz IEC
For the double-break unit it is of interest to know if the 60 Hz test
test standard standard
voltage distribution is symmetrical on the two contact parameter [4] [4]
gaps. Fig. 7 shows the mid potential of the double-break UTRV 102 kV 96 kV 94 kV 96 kV
unit for various arcing times at 40 kA. The mid potential
was measured with a capacitive probe. To determine the di/dt 16 A/s 16 A/s 19.2 A/s 19.2 A/s
voltage distribution, the peak value of the TRV and the du/dt
9.5 kV/s 7.2 kV/s 10.1kV/s 8.6 kV/s
measured value of the mid potential were set into (TRV)
relation. Grading capacitors for a steady voltage Tab. 2: Demands of short-line fault (90 %)
distribution were not used. It is obvious that the mid of 40 kA (r.m.s.) 50/60 Hz
potential of the double-break unit could not be exactly
50 % of the TRV. Most values are located between In accordance with the IEC standard the short-line fault
30 % and 50 %. That means that the upper gap carries was tested with a 90 % rated short-circuit breaking
more than half of the TRV which is due to the influence current, i.e. 36 kA (r.m.s.). As a first attempt, the TRV
of the stray capacitances. With the use of grading sizing lacks an exact reproduction of the saw tooth
capacitors a more symmetrical voltage distribution process due to the line. The most important optional
could be expected [8], which permits a further increase parameter was the rate of rise of voltage after current
of the breaking capability of the double-break unit. zero. The maximum of the TRV was limited. Tab. 2
illustrates the mean parameter for the tests. This
3.1.2. Asymmetrical short-circuit current modification of the IEC standard was accepted, because
with these tests the thermal behaviour taking place in
Asymmetrical short-circuit currents play an important
the region of some s around current-zero should be
role (especially for vacuum switchgear); they are
notable for their short arcing times. With the test set-up
used, asymmetrical currents were produced by the 20
overlapping of two sinusoidal current half-waves. The A/s 60 Hz
basis of the circuit used was the same voltage injection
circuit shown for symmetrical terminal fault tests. An 19

additional capacitor bank CB was connected in parallel

with a time delay of 3.4 ms, in order to extend the 18 successful tests - 50
rate of current rise

failed tests - 50 Hz
current flow. successful tests - 60 Hz
The DC (Direct Current) component was fixed at 50 %. 17
failed tests - 60 Hz
This resulted in a length of the current loop of 13.4 ms.
50 Hz
For the first investigations the current maximum peak
was fixed at a value of 52 kA. The rate of current rise
before current zero was 10 A/s.
Fig. 8 shows the switching results as a function of the 15
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18

arcing time. The investigations indicate that the arcing time ms

Fig. 9: Short-line fault tests on the double-break unit

Fig. 9 shows the short-line fault test results for 50 Hz time and the polarity of the TRV were regarded as
and 60 Hz. It is obvious that this duty is not limiting the parameters. The vacuum tubes are able to fulfil the
breaking behaviour of the vacuum switch. The test requirements for capacitive switching. Out of 49
results for the single-break unit look the same. For the switching tests, 46 are without any problems, and 3
double as well as the single-break unit the test allowed re-ignitions occurred at very short arcing times
conditions do not represent a problem. Both tested of clearly less than 1 ms.
arrangements show a comfortable arcing time window.
successful tests
3.2. Dielectric strength after breaking tests 8
pos. pol.
The new IEC standard [4] requires an 80 % value of the 6
original dielectric strength after breaking tests. Fig. 10 4

arcing time
shows the dielectric test results (50 Hz) before and after 2

the current switching tests at the single-break unit. The 0

1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 47 49
conditioning effects of the contact surfaces are nearly -2

the same, but after the breaking tests and a conditioning -4

process with small contact strokes the values for the -6


switched contacts are higher. The contact plates were -8

neg. pol.

melted on by the high short-circuit currents and this

gives rise to a better dielectric strength. With the high test number
current, micro protrusions were molten down, causing a Fig. 11: Capacitive switching tests with a single-break
microscopic smoother surface. unit and a current of 40 A

3.4. Inductive current switching
(50 Hz)
120 Vacuum switchgear is characterised by chopping
currents just before current zero. This phenomenon
applies especially for low inductive currents. Due to the
r.m.s. breakdown voltage

100 % is the dielectric

limit value from ANSI high di/dt of the chopped current it is possible for
60 overvoltages to occur at inductivities of the
after switching circuit (e.g. electrical machines). These overvoltages
before switching stress the insulation of the apparatus and for this case it
would be necessary to take additional precautions.
0 5 10 15 20 25
test-number %

Fig. 10: Dielectric strength of single-break unit before 20

single-break unit
and after current switching tests double-break unit


3.3. Capacitive current switching


Capacitive switching capacity is another important duty 10

because of the (1-cos) TRV waveform. The tested

current was 40 A. The peak value of the TRV is

US 2 0.71 0.76 0.80 0.84 0.88 0.92 0.97 1.01 1.05 1.09 1.13 1.18 1.22 1.26 1.30 1.34 1.39

U TRV = 2 k . (2) chopping current / average of chopping current (single-break unit)

Fig. 12: Distribution of chopping currents for double
and single-break units
For modern switchgear a voltage factor of k = 1.7 is
necessary to cope with the demands. With equation 2 The kind of contact material used influences mainly the
the TRV peak is determined as 233 kV. The difference magnitude of the chopping current. In both cases,
between forbidden restrikes and uncritical reignitions is double as well as single-break unit, a CuCr material was
the time of their occurrence. From the start of the TRV used. This is well known from medium voltage
up to 5 ms (50 Hz) a reignition is concerned without any applications. Low chopping current and high breaking
problems for disconnection. If a breakdown occurs later capability are contrary demands. Fig. 12 shows the
than 5 ms after contact separation it is a restrike with the distribution of chopping currents for the double and
option of an inadmissible voltage escalation. Capacitive single-break units. The investigations were carried out
switching tests were performed only with the single- with an inductive current of 60 A and an arc duration of
break unit because the dielectric results of this system 8 ms. There is no significant difference between the
are weaker than those of the double-break unit. double and single-break unit. They both show values
Some of the results of the capacitive switching tests are that do not suggest problems for inductive current
shown in Fig. 11. During the test sequence the arcing switching.
Ub =
For realising the investigations a transformer (50 Hz)
and an impulse generator (1.2/50 s) are necessary. In and
order to guarantee a dielectric breakdown within the = g (4)
tube and not outside it is necessary to reinforce the
outside dielectric firmness. Due to this, the experiments
were carried out in a test vessel filled with pressurised with:
insulating gas. Ub = breakdown voltage,
Comparing the dielectric strength of the two tubes, the Ec = critical field strength
limit values of ANSI standards are the decisive (for copper: 6.91.0109 V/m),
comparison values in the lower high-voltage ranges. s = contact separation,
= total enhancement factor,
4.1. Conditioning of contacts = microscopic geometry factor,
The conditioning of all metal electrodes against each g = macroscopic geometry factor.
other is very important to reach the highest possible
For the determination of (equation 4) it is unavoidable
dielectric strength. The conditioning process took place
to measure the field emission current. With aid of the
between the following metal electrodes:
Fowler-Nordheim-Equation [11] it is possible to
movable contact/fixed contact,
specify the total enhancement factor. Fig. 14 shows the
movable contact/vapour condensation shield,
Fowler-Nordheim-plot for a contact separation of 2 mm.
fixed contact/vapour condensation shield
The field emission current has to be measured for every
vapour condensation shield/vapour
voltage. The curves of Fig. 14 are the result of a
condensation shield.
separate measurement and not a part of the conditioning
Fig. 13 shows a typical spark-conditioning process [9]
These values result in a straight line in the given semi-
of the contact electrodes with AC voltage. To improve
logarithmic scale. The gradients of these curves are
the dielectric strength of the whole test device it is also
proportional to the total enhancement factor. The two
necessary to condition the shields against each other.
curves show, that decreases from 580 to 315 due to
After every breakdown the dielectric strength of the
only one breakdown during the conditioning process
contact gap increases. However, it is also possible to
which results in a higher breakdown voltage. If it is
decondition the contacts. This process is also shown in
supposed that g (factor 1 to 10) remains always at the
Fig. 13. Conditioning or deconditioning strongly
same value, -factor must be changed by breakdowns.
depends on the spark energy.
This results in the fact that for a special geometric
adjustment the prediction of Ub with the help of
% equation 3 is nearly impossible. The reason is situated in
a wide-range varying (some hundreds). It is a matter
300 Conditioning process of common knowledge that the total enhancement factor
for industrial manufactured contacts is in the magnitude
improvement of


of approximately 500. For laboratory electrodes


Deconditioning process arrangements with an optimum of microprotrusions it is
possible to reach a of 100 to 200.

log(A/V ) 1/U 1/kV
0,005 0,010 0,015 0,020 0,025 0,030 0,035
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140 150
number of breakdowns
Fig. 13: Breakdown conditioning of a contact -11,80

configuration with a contact separation of 5 mm. -12,00 separation: 2 mm,

log (I / U)

=580 before the breakdown

-12,20 separation: 2 mm,
To describe the surface quality of the electrodes the -12,40

total enhancement factor is used. is a combination of -12,60

the macroscopic (e.g. edge radius of the contacts) g and after the breakdown
the microscopic roughness (microprotrusions) . -12,80

During the tests the value of varies between 200 and a -13,00

few thousands. Every breakdown sequence causes a

Fig. 14: Fowler-Nordheim-plot for a contact separation
change of . Out of this reason it is difficult to predict
of 2 mm. Between the two measurements a breakdown
the limiting value of each tube design. In [10] the
theoretical equation to determine the breakdown voltage
of a contact geometry is described:
Fig. 15 shows the erosion tracks on an Axial-Magnetic-
Field (AMF) contact by breakdown-conditioning. The
quantity of tracks is statistically distributed over the break units. This is in good agreement with
surface, although the macroscopic field strength reaches investigations [12] made on laboratory test set-ups.
its maximum value at the contact edge and contact slots The results show clearly that the requirements for AC
(macroscopic dielectric field calculations with the finite- voltage are relatively easy to fulfil with both designs,
element-program ANSYS assists this fact). the double-break as well as the single-break unit
However, it can be recognised a difference in the
distribution of breakdown-tracks of different size. 140
The larger erosions tracks are located near to the contact
edge and the smaller tracks are distributed all over the 120

surface. The main reason for this fact is the different 100

breakdown voltage (50 Hz)

influence of and g. During the condition process the 80
-factor is relevant. After the microprotrusions were
already melted down with sparks of lower energy input 60

causing the smaller erosion tracks, the breakdown 40

single-break unit

voltage increases and the g -factor wins at influence. double-break unit

dielectric limit value from ANSI
The tracks migrate to regions with the highest g -factor
(contact edge and slots). The higher breakdown voltage 0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
results in larger erosion tracks. total contact separation

Fig. 16: AC voltage limit of double and single-break

units as a function of contact separation.

4.3. Lightning Impulse Voltage (LIV) limit

One important dimensioning test voltage for vacuum
switchgear applications is the LIV (1.2/50 s). Fig. 17
shows the operation sequence during the LIV test. After
3 successful LIV tests for a voltage level the voltage is
increased by some kV until a breakdown occurs. This
procedure is repeated one or two times until the highest
voltage value is reached.


Fig. 15: Foot prints from the spark conditioning process 70.0
voltage (1.2/50 s)

(AC) and other dielectric stress on the top of a CuCr- 60.0

contact plate. 50.0

successful tests
The final result are larger spots at the outside of the 30.0 failed tests
contact plate and smaller spots all over the contact 20.0

surface. 10.0

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
4.2. Power frequency voltage (AC voltage) limit
pulse number
Fig. 16 shows the dielectric limit for AC voltage as a Fig. 17: Operational sequence to determine the LIV
function of the contact separation. The curves were limit value for a positive polarity waveform of the test
created with the test equipment and the strategy to voltage.
increase the test voltage in steps of 3-5 kV/s up to the
breakdown voltage. After detecting a breakdown, the Fig. 18 shows the maximum reachable breakdown
primary circuit of the transformer is short-circuited by a voltage which could be measured during the test cycle.
semiconductor. With this caveat and the protection The tests were executed both with waveforms positive
resistor of 500 k the erosion of the contact surface will as well as negative polarity.
be minimised. This is very important especially for the The breakdown voltage as a function of the contact
conditioning process to reach an optimum contact separation has the following dependency:
surface with microscopic smooth surface i. e. minimum
of microprotrusions. U b = k s (5)
The values in the Fig. 16 indicate the maximum
breakdown values achieved by the conditioning process. with:
The curves of Fig. 16 show, that a total contact Ub = breakdown voltage,
separation of about 20 mm is necessary to fulfil the k = constant,
s = contact separation,
ANSI requirements for the high-voltage level. Up to
20 mm there is no difference between double or single- = characteristic curve exponent.
% 160

With the data of Tab. 3, the equations (5) and (6) and a
contact separation of 40 mm the improvement factor
results in:
breakdown voltage (1,2/50 s)


68 s 0.58
Vd = = 1.38 (7)
60 dielectric limit value from ANSI 115 s 0.35
single-break unit, positive polarity
single-break unit, negative polarity
20 double-break unit, positive polarity Sentker [12] determines the theoretical improvement
double-break unit, negative polarity factor V2,max for a double-break unit with equation (8):
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
total contact separation
V 2, max = 2 (1 ) . (8)
Fig. 18: Lightning impulse voltage limit for double and
single-break units as a function of contact separation.
Equation (8) is based on the assumption that the free
mid-electrode is exactly on 50 % potential. The max.
Taking into account the clump-theory of Cranberg [13]
improvement factor varies with . With = 0.58, V2,max
the characteristic curve exponent takes a value of 0.5.
is determined to 1.34. This is the max. theoretical
For a real design the factor is different. Fig. 18 shows
improvement of the double-break unit against the
the trend of for the different contact separations,
single-break unit.
based on the measurements shown in Fig. 19.
The measured improvement factor of 1.38, considering
the used tube designs with commercial available
contacts, is too high compared with the max. possible
value of 1.34. The substantiation of this varieties could
characteristic curve exponent

have the following reasons:
With enlarged contact separation the shielding
arrangement of the single-break unit influences more
and more the breakdown characteristic and less the
AMF contacts, because relatively they become
characteristic curve exponent, single-break unit dielectric weaker than the contacts. This is not the case
0.1 characteristic curve exponent, double-break unit with the double-break unit because of the relatively
0 small contact gaps. This hypothesis is supported by the
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45
observation of dielectric breakdowns across the ceramic
contact separation
surface at single-break units (Fig. 20) which do not
Fig. 19: Characteristic curve exponent as a function occur at the double-break unit where the breakdowns
of the total contact separation. always occur between the contacts. With other words an
improvement of the single-break unit is still possible
To compare the two vacuum tube designs the range concerning the dielectric resistance of shielding
from about 20 mm to maximum contact separation has arrangement compared with that of the contacts.
to be taken into consideration. Tab. 3 shows the
dependency of breakdown voltage from the contact
separation for the two different designs at 40 mm.

Single-break unit U b , s = 115 s 0.35

Double-break unit U b , d = 68 s 0.58
Tab. 3: Breakdown voltage as a function of contact
separation for double and single-break units

The improvement-factor concerning the comparison of

double-break with single-break unit is determined by
the following equation:

U b,d
Vd = (6)
U b, s
with: Fig. 20: Dielectric breakdown (1.2/50 s) with
Vd = improvement-factor, assistance of the shielding and the ceramic surface at the
Ub,d = breakdown voltage characteristic for single-break unit (3 segments of the tube visibly).
the double-break unit,
Ub,s = breakdown voltage characteristic for
the single-break unit
4.5. X-ray emission blast circuit-breakers. More than 100 short-circuit
At vacuum switchgear X-ray emission takes place. It is current interruptions are possible with a vacuum tube.
obvious that the AC (50 Hz) is more crucial than the The investigations on capacitive switching show good
LIV. Fig. 21 shows the dose rate for the double-break results also with a voltage factor of k = 1.7.
and single-break unit at maximum contact separation. The measured values of chopped current in inductive
The measurements were determined with a scintillation current switching represent no problem. There are no
counter, which was positioned at 700 mm by the emitter significant differences between the two tube concepts.
focal point.
The conditioning process is very important not only to
reach a better dielectric strength between the contacts
single-break unit, 50 mm total contact but also to improve the shape structure strength.
double-break unit, 2 x 20 mm total contact
1 ti of natural dose rate in Germany
average Both presented breaker designs fulfil the dielectric
Exponentiell ( single-break unit, 50 mm
0.1 separation) total contact
requirements. The dimensioning test voltage for the tube
design is the LIV.
dose rate

700 mm distance from
With enlarged contact separation the shield arrangement
scintillation counter to the and the areas outside of the contact arrangement become
middle of the tube
the dielectric weak points which initiate the breakdown.
This effect is less strongly pronounced at the double-
break unit. With smaller contact separations and more
0.50 1.00 1.50 2.00 2.50 3.00 3.50 4.00
advantageous shield-arrangements a unique advantage
operating voltage / phase-to-earth
exists for the double-break unit. The measured single-
Fig. 21: Dose rate for double and single-break units in
interrupter unit still has improvement potential
dependency of operating voltage.
concerning the shielding geometry.
The results show a slight advantage for the single-break The X-ray emission of both, the double and the single
unit but the conditioning status could be different and so break interrupter is uncritical.
the surface properties were not the same. The X-ray The driving speed, the contact stroke and consequently
emission strongly depends on the surface of the the drive energy of such an interrupter is only a fraction
electrodes. Another emission centre is the ceramic of that of a comparable gas-blast system. This offers an
surface. The areas with luminescence are characterised opportunity to think about alternative drives to those
by an increased X-ray emission. commonly used today.
Fig. 21 shows that X-ray emission during the phase-
to-earth voltage is uncritical. Furthermore restricted ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
areas have to be kept under high-voltage conditions. The authors wish to express their gratitude to the
Even at AC test voltage the X-ray emission does not divisions PTD MC R&D, CT EN3 and PTD HTTR of
represent any danger for personnel. Siemens AG; without their support and knowledge this
work would have been impossible.

It is possible to perform the duties for 84 kV/40 kA [1] H. Himi, T. Takashima, Y. Shinmon, E. Umeya:
high-voltage switchgear applications with both systems, 84/72 kV Outdoor Vacuum Circuit Breakers
the double-break and the single-break vacuum tube. (MEIDEN REVIEW Series No. 48, August 1976,
The arc voltage in both systems show that at high short- No. 2)
circuit currents it is only for a short period that the arc [2] Y. Shinmon, T. Seki, R. Nakanishi, T. Jj:
leaves the diffuse mode. The arc returns from the 72.5 kV outdoor vk type vacuum circuit-breakers
constricted to the diffuse mode before the maximum of (MEIDEN REVIEW, 66 (3), 1982, pp. 19-23)
the current loop.
[3] S. Yanabu, H. Ikeda: Maximum interruption ability
For terminal fault conditions the switching limit of the of SF6 puffer and vacuum circuit breaker
double-break unit is higher than the switching limit of (Proceedings Gas Discharges Conference, Swansea
the single-break unit, but both vacuum tube systems 1992, pp. 230-232)
reach the required breaking capability of 40 kA at
[4] IEC 62271-100: High-voltage switchgear and
symmetrical and asymmetrical currents.
controlgear, Part 100: High-voltage alternating-
During short-line fault tests, no early restrike some s current circuit-breakers, first edition, 05-2001.
after current zero was discerned, as are known from
[5] R. Renz, D. Smann: Entwicklungstendenzen bei
common gas-blast systems. Short-line fault tests are not
Vakuumschaltern (Etz Bd. 112, Heft 15, 1991)
a problem for vacuum switchgear.
[6] S. Yanabu, S. Souma, T. Tamagawa, S. Yamashita,
The vacuum switchgear is able to break a higher
T. Tsutsumi: Vacuum arc under an axial magnetic
number of short-circuit currents than comparable gas-
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Vol.126, No. 4, April 1979) Basic Concepts and Technological Practice
[7] G. A. Farrall: Recovery of dielectric strength after (Academic Press London, 1995)
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on Plasma Science, Vol. PS-6, No. 4, December Mehrfachunter-brechungen im Hochvakuum.
1978) Dissertation TU Braunschweig, 1997L.
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geschalteten Vakuumschaltkammern unter in Vacuum (Journal of Applied Physics, Vol. 23
Bercksichtigung der Potentialaufteilung (1952), No. 5, pp. 518-522)
(Dissertation TU Darmstadt, Fortsch.-Ber. VDI [14] Niemeyer: A systematic search for insulation gases
Reihe 21, Nr. 270, VDI Verlag 1999) and their environmental evaluation (Gaseous
[9] J. Ballat, D. Knig, U. Reininghaus: Spark Dielectrics VIII, edited by Christophorou and
Conditioning Procedures for Vacuum Interrupters in Olthoff, Plenum Press, New York, 1998)
Circuit Breakers (IEEE Trans. on Electr. Insul.,
Vol. 28, No. 4, August 1993)
[10] J. M. Lafferty: Vacuum Arcs (John Willey & Sons,
New York, 1979)