Vacuum Switchgear

Now days, vacuum switchgear getting popularity very rapidly. In
medium voltage switchgear application, medium voltage vacuum
switchgear ranges from 3 to 36 KV. Now days, vacuum interruption
technology, in medium voltage application, dominates, air, SF6 and
oil technologies. Since, vacuum circuit breaker is more safely and
reliably operated where number of faulty and normal operation is
much high.
Vacuum as an Interruption Medium
The performance of a circuit breaker mainly depends upon the
dielectric medium used for arc quenching. Another major advantage
of this technology, is that vacuum switchgear is nearly maintenance
free. Now we will discuss one the different features of this
technology, which make it so popular-

Dielectric Strength of Vacuum
For a given contact gap, vacuum provides, about eight times more
dielectric strength than air and four times more dielectric strength
than SF6 gas at one bar. As the dielectric strength is so high, the
contact gap of vacuum circuit breaker can be maintained very small.
In this small contact gap, arc quenching is safely possible due to
high dielectric strength and also vacuum has the fast recovery
strength after full arc interruption to its full dielectric value at
current zero. This makes, vacuum switchgear, most suitable for
capacitor switching.
Law Arc Energy in Vacuum
The energy dissipated during arc in vacuum is about one tenth of
that of oil and one fourth of that of SF6 gas. Law energy dissipation
mainly due to low interruption time (due to small contact gap) and
small arc length (this is also due to small contact gap). Because of
this low arc energy dissipation, vacuum switchgear has negligible
contact erosion and this gives it nearly maintenance free life span.
It is also to be noted that, for breaking certain current, the energy

and this metal vapor provides a path through which electric current continuous to flow until the next current zero. no need of hydraulic and pneumatic mechanism. Rapid Arc Quenching During opening of contacts in current carrying condition. only 1% of the vapor is re-condensed on arc chamber’s side wall. oil and air circuit breaker.required by vacuum circuit breaker is minimum compared to air circuit breaker and oil circuit breaker. instead of being stationery at certain point. and also movement of contacts is quit less due to its small contacts gap. it is almost clear that. That is why simple spring-spring operating mechanism is sufficient for this switchgear system. in this circuit breaker. movement of contacts is highly resisted by highly compressed medium of arc quenching chamber. Simple Driving Mechanism In SF6. But in vacuum switchgear. Due to this phenomenon. But above 10 KA. hence driving energy required is much smaller. This arc is extinguished near the current zero and the conductive metal vapor is re-condensed on the contact surface in a matter of micro seconds. the arc can travel throughout the surface area. metal vapor is produced between the contacts. up to 10 KA. This problem can be solved by providing specially designed contact surface so that. the arc remains diffused. the dielectric strength of vacuum switchgear recovers very fast and contact erosion is almost negligible. It has been observed that. there is no medium. and 99% of vapor re-condensed on the contact surface from where it was vaporized. the center of the contacts over heated. This phenomenon is also known a vacuum arc. Simpler driving mechanism gives a high mechanical life of vacuum switchgear. Different manufacturers use different contact surface designs to chive this . It takes the form of vapor discharge and covers the entire contact surface. the diffused arc is concentrated at central point of the contact surface due to its own magnetic field. From above discussion. It has been observed that.

Vacuum Circuit Breaker or VCB and Vacuum Interrupter A vacuum circuit breaker is such kind of circuit breaker where the arc quenching takes place in vacuum. But still it is a developing technology. Replacement of vacuum interrupter (VI) is much convenient. It is much environment friendly than SF6 Circuit breaker. The operation of opening and closing of current carrying contacts and associated arc interruption take place in a vacuum chamber in the breaker which is called vacuum interrupter. The contact geometry is also improving with time. Beside of that contraction of VCB is much user friendly. Cu/Cr is the most ideal material to make VCB contacts. As time goes on. The vacuum circuit breaker is today recognized as most reliable current interruption technology for medium voltage switchgear. Advantages of Vacuum Circuit Breaker or VCB Service life of vacuum circuit breaker is much longer than other types of circuit breakers. The material used for current carrying contacts plays an important role in the performance of the vacuum circuit breaker. This causes minimum and uniform contact erosion. the size of the vacuum interrupter is being reducing from its early 1960’s size due to different technical developments in this field of engineering.6 bar. It requires minimum maintenance compared to other circuit breaker technologies. For higher voltage vacuum technology has been developed but not commercially viable. from butt contact of early days it gradually changes to spiral shape.travelling of arc due to its own magnetic field. cup shape and axial magnetic field contact. There is no chance of fire hazard like oil circuit breaker. . The technology is suitable for mainly medium voltage application. The vacuum interrupter consists of a steel arc chamber in the centre symmetrically arranged ceramic insulators. Vacuum interrupter technology was first introduced in the year of 1960. The vacuum pressure inside a vacuum interrupter is normally maintained at 10.

For short contact gap. by establishing high dielectric strength in between the contacts so that reestablishment of arc after current zero becomes impossible. Then the arc will be initiated and continued until the next current zero. At current zero this vacuum arc is extinguished and the conducting metal vapor is re- condensed on the contact surface. At this instant of de-touching of contacts in a vacuum. Although this happens in a fraction of micro second but it is the fact. When two face to face contact areas are just being separated to each other. they do not be separated instantly. contact area on the contact face is being reduced and ultimately comes to a point and then they are finally de-touched. At this point. the metal on the contact surface is easily vaporized due to that hot spot and create a conducting media for arc path. This high dielectric strength makes it possible to quench a vacuum arc within very small contact gap. the current through the contacts concentrated on that last contact point on the contact surface and makes a hot spot. As it is vacuum. low contact mass and no compression of medium the drive energy required in vacuum circuit breaker is minimum.Operation of Vacuum Circuit Breaker The main aim of any circuit breaker is to quench arc during current zero crossing. the contacts are . The dielectric strength of vacuum is eight times greater than that of air and four times greater than that of SF6 gas.

That means. the arc cannot be reestablished again. There are two types of arc shapes. Specially designed contact shape of vacuum circuit breaker make the constricted stationary arc travel along the surface of the contacts. The phenomenon gives rise over heating of contact at its center. thereby causing minimum and uniform contact erosion. . the design of the contacts should be such that the arc does not remain stationary but keeps travelling by its own magnetic field. Above 10 kA the diffused arc is constricted considerably by its own magnetic field and it contracts. For interrupting current up to 10 kA.already separated hence there is no question of re-vaporization of contact surface. for next cycle of current. the arc remains diffused and the form of vapor discharge and cover the entire contact surface. In order to prevent this. In this way vacuum circuit breaker prevents the reestablishment of arc by producing high dielectric strength in the contact gap after current zero.