Circuit breakers are used in a wide range of applications.  They are used in many environments and can handle currents and voltages of different ranges.

Circuit breakers are classified on the basis of different criteria.  Some of the classifications are below

Based on the interrupting medium
  1. Air circuit breaker
  2. Oil circuit breaker
  3. SF6 circuit breaker
Based on type of action
  1. Automatic circuit breakers
  2. Non-automatic circuit breakers
Based on the method of control
  1. Locally controlled circuit breakers
  2. Remotely controlled circuit breakers (remote control can be mechanical, pneumatic or electrical)
Based on the type of mounting
  1. Panel mounted circuit breakers
  2. Remote from panel mounted circuit breakers
  3. Rear of panel mounted circuit breakers
Based on location
  1. Outdoor circuit breakers
  2. Indooor circuit breakers
Based on voltage
  1. Low voltage circuit breakers
  2. Medium voltage circuit breakers
  3. High voltage circuit breakers

A reliable and effective protection system is a crucial part of any power system.  The protection system protects the equipment in the power system, such as generators, motors, transformers, etc from damage to faults.

The protection system also ensures reliability by localizing and isolating the fault and minimizing its impact on the rest of the power system.

The requirements of a power system are as follows

1. To isolate the equipment or component in which the fault has occurred.  The isolation should be quick enough to prevent damage to the component itself.  For instance, a short circuit inside can severely damage a transformer.  The differential relay, in such a situation, should immediately act and trip the transformer.

2. To isolate the smallest possible section of the power system to minimize the interruption.

3. To prevent disturbance or disruption to other parts of the power system.  The fault, if not isolated in time, can cause the upstream breakers to trip.

A well-designed protection system will greatly increase the reliability and performance of a power system.

The faults in a power system can be caused by a wide range of causes.  Below is a list of some of the most probable causes for electrical faults.

Overvoltage is caused due to surges such as lightning or due to switching loads on and off.  In generators, it can be caused due to the failure of the field controller.

Heavy winds which can cause lines to snap or trees to fall on them. This can cause open circuits, earth faults and short circuits.

Ageing which can result in weakening of insulation and failure. This can result in short circuits and earth faults.

Chemical pollution and deposition on the insulators that can result in flash overs

Faults due to wildlife, such as birds, snakes, mice, etc which can cause short circuits and earth faults.

Collision of vehicles on towers and transmission poles can cause the towers to fall.

The table below will give an idea of the percentage of the types of faults in the different equipment in a power system

Overhead lines                      50%
Transformers                         12%
Switch gear                            15%
Cables                                   10%
Miscellaneous                         8%
Instrument Transformers        2%
Control Equipment                 3%

Silicon Controlled Rectifiers
Silicon Controlled Rectifier
A silicon controlled rectifier is a three terminal electronic component.  It consists of an anode, a cathode and a gate.

The device is similar to a diode, except that it needs to be switched on with an external voltage applied to the gate during the positive half cycle.  Once, the SCR has been trigerred, it "fires" and conducts as long as it is positively biased.

In AC circuits, during the negative half cycle, the SCR switches off automatically.

SCRS find application in applications where the current needs to be controlled.  They are used in many electronic equipments, such as inverters, converters, speed controller, etc.

There are different methods of trigerring the gate of a Silicon Controlled Rectifiers (SCRs).  They are

Using DC Voltage
By applying a positive voltage to the gate with respect to the cathode, the junction J2 can be forward biased.  This will switch on the SCR.  This process requires a constant dc voltage to be applied between the Gate and the Cathode, which is a disadvantage.  Besides, there is no isolation between this triggering dc voltage and the main dc supply

Using AC voltage
In AC applications, the trigger voltage can be obtained from the AC voltage suitable reduced.  The phase of the AC voltage is modified and applied to trigger the SCR at the desired instant.  The SCR will continue to conduct till the negative half cycle.

A separate transformer is required for the trigger circuit which increases the cost

Pulse triggering
This is the most widely used form of triggering.  In this method, a pulse of a small duration is applied to the gate to switch it ON.  Sometimes, a series of pulses are applied.  The pulse need not be continuous.  This reduces the losses in the gate.

Commutation in dc machines refers to the changing of current flow from one circuit to another.  In SCRs ( Silicon controlled Rectifiers) and thyristors, it refers switching off a conducting electronic component.

In AC circuits, SCRs are commutated by the negative half cycle which reverse biases the anode and cathode terminals.  This is known as natural commutation.

However, in DC circuits, special circuits should be designed to switch off the SCRs once, they have been switched on.  The current is reduced to zero by means of external circuits.  This is known as Forced Commutation

The SCR cannot switch on on its own once its anode and cathode are connected to the positive and negative terminals respectively.

The following are some of the methods.

Gate Triggering

This is the most popular method.  A single pulse or a train or pulses are applied to the gate terminal of the SCR.  This creates a forward bias across junction J2 and switches on the SCR.

Thermal Triggering
When the SCR is heated above a certain value, more hole-electron pairs are produced this increases the charge carriers and can cause the SCR to switch on.

Light Triggering

When light is made to fall on the junction in reverse bias, hole-electron pairs are created due to the energy of the incident light.  This can cause the SCR to fire.  Special components such as LASCR (Light activated Silicon controlled Rectifiers) and LASCS ( Light activated Silicon controlled Rectifiers) work on this principle.  This method of triggering is cheaper when designing components of higher ratings.  The light is conducted to the junction by means of optical cables.

dv/dt triggering
In this method of triggering, a rapid change in the voltage current to flow through the junction J2 which acts as a dielectric between two conductive junctions (J1 and J3).  The SCR will switch on even if the voltage is low provided the rate of change of the voltage is high.

The advantages of grounding (earthing) the neutral are as follows

  1. Sensitive current protection schemes can be used to quickly identify an earth fault.
  2. The external surges and overvoltages caused by lightning or switching are discharged to the ground.  If the neutral is not grounded, these waves will get reflected and cause overvoltages in the system.
  3. The phase voltages are within limit and the value is the voltage between the phase to ground.
  4. Arcing grounds, which occur at the location of an earth fault are avoided.

The disadvantages of grounding the neutral are

  1. The system will trip even for a minor earth fault.  This affects the reliability of the power supply.
  2. The zero sequence currents which flow through the neutral can cause interference to telecommunication lines.

The Generator Neutral Breaker is used in systems, which are grounded through low resistances or solidly grounded (without a resistance).  In such systems, the fault current in the line due to an earth fault will be high.

The current flowing through the equipment due to an earth fault can be limited if a breaker is connected in series with the neutral.  This breaker is opened simultaneously with the armature and the field breaker.  This will bring the fault current to zero quickly.

Circuit breakers used in switching of long transmission lines have a resistors which is pre-inserted between the contacts before the contacts are closed. This resistor is called the Pre-insertion resistor. The function of this resistor is to limit the initial charging current of the line. The resistance of the line is around 500 ohms.

Once the closing command is given to the breaker, the resistor is first connected across the contacts. This resistance in series limits the line current. A few milliseconds later, the contacts are closed. 

While opening the breaker, the pre-insertion resistor is first disconnected before the contacts are opened by the circuit breaker. Pre-insertion resistors are also used in lines which have transformers to limit the high inrush current.

Capacitance is the phenomenon of holding electrostatic charge. In electrical systems, long transmission lines, power cables and capacitor banks can have large amounts of capacitance. In a circuit containing capacitance, the current will lead the voltage by 90 degrees. This means that at the instant of the current zero crossing, the voltage across the breaker contacts will be the maximum. If a circuit is isolated at this instant, the high system voltage will be retained by the line capacitances. If the breaker is opened when the current is zero and the voltage is maximum, half a cycle later when the supply voltage reaches maximum in the opposite direction, the voltage across the breaker contacts will be 2V. This can result in a restriking voltage being developed and a flashover occurring across the circuit breaker. Once the flashover due to the restrike occurs, oscillations are set up in the line between the system inductance and the capacitance. These oscillations and the restrikes they cause can result in the line voltage reaching up to 4 times the voltage (4V). Hence, in lines with high capacitances, air blast circuit breakers or multi break circuit breakers are used for isolation.

A Silicon controlled Rectifier (SCR) is a semiconductor device which conducts in only one direction.  It has three terminals.  An anode, a cathode and a gate.  Unlike a diode, however, it needs to be switched on by a pulse applied to the gate.  

The circuit below shows the method of switching on an SCR using a resistor.  The power source is connected across the SCR.  The gate voltage is provided by the voltage divider circuit.  The variable resistor, R4 is used to control the firing angle.  

The Diode D1 prevents negative voltage from reaching the gate during the negative half cycle.  The SCR will be switched off during the negative half cycle by the supply voltage

Resistor switching of an SCR
Circuit Diagram - Resistor switching of an SCR

A Fault Analysis is a study which describes the fault currents and the behaviour of a power system during an electric fault.  Faults may be line to line faults or line to ground faults. The fault analysis provides information about the  The Fault Analysis is used to determine the ratings of fuses and circuit breakers.

Using the fault analysis, we can determine the maximum current which will be developed during a fault.  The bus bars, breakers and other transmission equipment should be equipped to withstand the heavy current which flow during a fault.

The protective relays are set based on the current calculated during the fault analysis.

The power balance equation describes the relation between Power Demand and Power Generation in a power system.

The equation is


PD is the Total Power Demand
PG is the output of individual generating stations

The sum of the power generated should equal the demand for power.

Arduino is an open source platform used in embedded systems. Arduino has its own hardware and software. Since it is an open source project, it is used for numerous projects by many hundreds of people around the world.  The Layout and the production files are available in the public domain.

The Arduino board is powered by the Atmel 8-bit AVR microcontroller.  The Flash memory and other features may vary among different boards.

Programming the Arduino
The program for the Arduino can be written in any high level programming language with a compiler which can generate machine level code for Arduino.  However, Arduino has its own IDE (Integrated Development Environment).  The Arduino can be used using the IDE.  A program for the Arduino is called the sketch.

Programs can be written using the C and C++ language

Arduino has a well developed ecosystem consisting of numerous manufacturers and developers.  Many professional projects can be built with Arduino.  There are many peripherals such as sensors and actuators which can be linked to the Arduino to create a range of products from robots to security systems.

Many manufacturers and hobbyists create projects based on Arduino.

Useful Links

Software refers to the non physical parts of a computing system.  Examples are the programs which contain the instructions.  The software is written in the programming language such as VB, Java and C

Firmware is the program written on an embedded device such as a microprocessor or a microcontroller.  It controls the functioning of the microprocessor IC

It is written in the assembly level language. It is called firmware as it interfaces between the software and the hardware.

Hardware refers to the physical components of a computing system such as the processor, memory and the peripherals.

The key difference is that in a microcontroller, the memory (ROM and RAM) and the peripherals are fabricated on a single IC. A microprocessor, on the other hand, does not contain the memory and the peripherals in itself.  They are separately mounted and connected.

Microcontrollers are used for specific operations, such as to control and operate a washing machine or a traffic signal.  A microprocessor can be installed for a specific function in a larger system.  It is not designed for a single operation.

The speed of a microprocessor is above 1 GHz while the speed of the microcontroller is around 50 MHz.

Microprocessors can handle greater complexity as compared to microcontrollers.   They also use more power than microcontrollers.

Embedded Electronics, as the name suggests, refers to electronic hardware and software that is embedded or attached to the equipment being controlled.  

The component may be a robotic arm in an assembly line or a life support device in an ICU.  Today, Embedded Electronics can be found in all areas of life.  The washing machine and the refrigerator at home are also controlled by embedded electronics.

The advantages of embedded systems are their small size, low cost and power consumption and their rugged construction.  The program and the logic of machine operation can be easily modified.  The cost of embedded systems are lower as they are mass produced which reduces cost.  

Embedded systems can be built using both microprocessors and micro controllers.  Embedded systems can be used as standalone units or as part of a larger network controlling a bigger system.  

Programming Embedded Systems

Embedded systems can be programming using assembly level languages.  The assembly level languages are compiled into machine level using compilers.  The program is stored in the nonvolatile memory of the system.  Microprocessors and microcomputers will have their own programming languages specified by the manufacturers.  A good understanding of the C programming language will be useful in programming embedded systems.

Conductivity is an important parameter of industrial liquids.  Conductivity is measured for liquids almost all liquids.  The conductivity of the liquid gives an idea of the ions in the liquid.

The conductivity of a liquid is measured using special conductivity sensors.  The unit of conductivity is siemen/cm.  A siemen is 1/ohm.  The unit of conductance is sometimes referred to mho (ohm written in reverse).

The conductance is usually a very low value for conducting liquids such as water.  It will be of the order of a millionth of a siemen, in microsiemens.  Highly pure water, for instance, will have a conductivity of 1microsiemen/cm.

Measurement of conductivity
Conductivity is measured by measuring the conductivity of a liquid between two electrodes whose area and distance between each other is fixed.  This is known as a cell constant.

A cell constant of 1 implies that the electrodes will have a surface area of 1 cm2 and will be spaced 1 cm apart.

Magnetic flow meters are used to measure flow of liquids that are conductive.  Magnetic flow meters do not have to physically be in contact with the medium.

Magnetic Flow meters, or Magmeters as they are otherwise called work on the basis of Faraday's law which states that the voltage produced by a moving conductor in a magnetic field is proportional to the velocity of the conductor.

In a Magnetic flowmeter, the conductive liquid such as water is passed through a constant magnetic field.

As the conductive liquid flows between a magnetic field, a voltage is induced in direction perpendicular to the magnetic field.  This voltage is measured by a pair of probes.

The flowrate can be calculated from the voltage induced in these probes.

The magnetic field is produced by a pair of electromagnets whose polarity is constantly reversed. The reversal of polarity is essential to prevent interference due to electrochemical potentials induced where the probes come in contact with the liquid.

The voltage is proportional to the velocity of the liquid, the width of the pipe (diameter), and the magnetic field strength.

Latching current is the minimum current which is required to flow from the anode to the cathode to switch "ON" the SCR.

Holding current is the minimum current which needs to keep flowing to keep the SCR in the 'ON' state.

The Latching current will be greater than the Holding current for an SCR.

Fusing Current refers at which the fuse is designed to melt and disconnect the circuit.  Wiring rules specify the fusing current for different circuits.  It is also known as minimum fusing current.  

Fusing Factor
The Fusing Factor is the ratio of the rated current and the fusing current

Fusing Current = Fusing Factor x Rated Current

The fusing current will always be more than the rated current.  Thus, the fusing factor will always be greater than one.  

‘Polarization’, denoted by ‘P’ is defined as the difference between the induced electric field ‘D’ and imposed electric field ‘E’ within a dielectric medium due to immovable and free charge carriers respectively.

This phenomena occurs if an electric field distortion takes place between negatively charged electrons around positively charged atomic nuclei giving rise to slight difference of charges.

Mathematically, it is stated as-
P = (D-E)/4π

Polarization can also be expressed in terms of electric susceptibility Хe, such as,
P = є0 Хe E

Where, є0 = permittivity of free space, (= 8.85 x 10-12 Farad/metre).

Quantitatively, it is denoted by-

P = p/V
Where, p =amount of dipole moment

  V = volume of polarized material