ACB | Air Circuit Breaker

Hi friends, in this article, I am discussing the air circuit breaker working principle and construction. I hope it will be beneficial for you.

In an air circuit breaker, we use the air as an arc quenching medium. The air has several advantages over the oil as an arc extinguishing medium. These are as follows:

  • The risk of fire and maintenance associated with the use of oil is eliminated.
  • Mechanical stresses that set up due to gas pressure and oil movement are eliminated.
  • The cost of regular oil replacement due to deterioration of oil with successive breaking operation is absent.

Air Circuit Breaker Working Principle

In the air circuit breakers, we extinguish the arc by increasing its resistance. We lengthen the arc with the help of arc runners, arc chutes, and its resistance is increased by cooling, splitting, and lengthening.

The arc resistance is increased to such a value that the voltage drop across the arc becomes more than system voltage, and the arc is extinguished at current zero instant of AC wave. We can classify the ACB breaker into two types, namely:

  • Plain Air Circuit Breakers
  • Air Blast Circuit Breakers

Plain air circuit breakers or ACBs further can be subdivided into the following categories:

  • Plain Break Type
  • Magnetic Blow-out Type
  • Arc Chute Type

Plain break type air circuit breaker: In this type, contacts are made in the shape of two horns. The arc initially strikes across the shortest distance between the horns. It is then moved slowly upwards by the convection currents caused by heating of air during arcing and interaction of magnetic and electric fields.

The arc expands from one tip to the other when horns are fully separated. It results in lengthening and cooling of the arc. These circuit breakers are used up to 500 V and low power circuits because at higher ratings; the arc may spread to adjacent metal parts.

Magnetic blow-out type air circuit breaker: In this type of circuit breaker, arc extinction is achieved using a magnetic field produced by the current in blow-out coils connected in series with the circuit being interrupted. The magnetic field moves the arc into arc chutes where the arc is lengthened, cooled, and quenched.

The breaking action of such breakers becomes more effective with large currents. Therefore, these circuit breakers are used for high rupturing capacities.

Air Circuit Breaker Construction

Construction of an air circuit breaker (arc-chute type) used for low and medium voltage is shown in the Figure.

air circuit breaker working principle and construction

There are two sets of contacts in such breakers named as main contacts and arcing contacts. The main contacts are usually made of copper and carry the current in the closed position of the circuit breaker. They are silver coated to make low contact resistance.

The arcing contacts are hard, heat resistant, and usually made of a copper alloy. Arcing contacts are used to reduce the damage of main contacts due to arcing. These contacts can be replaced easily. The arcing contacts close before and open after main contacts. Here blow-outs consist of steel inserts in the arcing chutes.

These are so arranged that the magnetic field induced in them by the current in the arc moves it upward faster. When the arc comes into contact with the cool surfaces of the steel plates made in arc chute, it gets rapidly cooled. Thus the arc is quenched by lengthening and excessive power loss. The main problem in this type of circuit breaker is inefficiency at low currents where the electromagnetic fields are weak.

Air Circuit Breaker Operation

On the occurrence of a fault, main contacts separate first, and the current is shifted to the arcing contacts. Now the arcing contacts separate, and the arc is struck between them.

This arc is pushed upwards by the electromagnetic forces and thermal action. It is split by arc splitter plates. It ends by traveling along with the arc runners. Thus, the arc is quenched by lengthening, cooling, and splitting.

Applications of Air Circuit Breakers

These circuit breakers are employed in AC circuits as well as DC circuits up to 12 kV. Such circuit breakers are usually of indoor type and installed on vertical control panels. As they have no oil, they are recommended where there are possibilities of fire and explosion.

Thanks for reading about the “air circuit breaker working principle and construction.” For more details, visit Wikipedia.

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