An Overview of Circuit Breakers

Since the invention of electricity, electronics and electrical appliances have become greatly intertwined with our day to day lives. To allow for our phones, computers, lights, and other electronics to function, we have implemented complex electrical grids that allow us to access electricity with ease in many areas. As electricity is a volatile force that can damage components and harm individuals if left unchecked, protective elements are often put in place as a failsafe or safety feature for circuits. With an electronic device known as a circuit breaker, electrical networks and their attached devices can be protected from overloads and short circuits.

In its most basic form, a circuit breaker is a type of electrical switch assembly that operates automatically, and it functions to stop the flow of electricity throughout a circuit when a fault occurs. With multiple shapes, sizes, and types of circuit breakers and circuit breaker accessories available, a wide variety of appliances and devices ranging from simple household items to industrial machinery can be protected. As compared to other similar devices such as a fuse, circuit breakers can be used multiple times and may just require resetting the fuse before it can operate correctly again.

With all circuit breakers, the device must be able to detect a fault within the system for protection. By using smaller switch accessories or switch modules within the circuit breaker, faults can be detected through heating or magnetic effects. When a fault occurs, the switch components will actuate automatically, causing contacts to separate so that the circuit is broken. At the same time, various methods may be implemented in order to extinguish the electric arc between contacts, ensuring that nothing can continue through the system. Once the arc has been extinguished and cooled, the contacts are then automatically or manually reconnected so as to reestablish the circuit for normal operations. While most circuit breakers provide the same end result of preventing damage from electrical faults, the medium of separating contacts and the manner of extinguishing typically differs between each type.

For domestic, commercial, and industrial applications, the low-voltage circuit breaker is the most common type of device which can handle voltages that are less than 1,000 VAC. Depending on the amount of voltage that is travelling through a particular circuit, either a miniature circuit breaker or molded case circuit breaker may be used. With a molded case circuit breaker, higher voltages can be protected more optimally, allowing for high power industrial electronics to be safer. Meanwhile, the miniature circuit breaker is much more simplistic with its ability to handle rated currents up to 125 A.

For high power applications such as electrical power transmission networks, high-voltage circuit breakers are needed to efficiently handle large loads. As solenoid operated devices with current sensing protective relays, such circuit breakers can handle currents that exceed 72.5 kV and can assist in overloads and earth faults. To extinguish arcs, high-voltage circuit breakers utilize oils, air blasts, vacuums, sulfur hexafluoride, and carbon dioxide.

Through the use of magnets and solenoids, many magnetic circuit breakers can successfully protect devices and appliances. As current increases within a particular circuit, the pulling force of the solenoid increases in unison. As such, any current that exceeds the rating of the circuit breaker will cause a latch to be released, resulting in contacts opening through spring action. In the United States, magnet circuit breaker devices are common for a diverse set of applications.

Beyond the aforementioned circuit breaker types, common devices also include those that are solid state, common trip, shunt-trip, and more. At Aerospace Orbit, we can help you secure the circuit breaker parts, switch assembly and switch components, and other electronics that you need for your operations with ease. Explore our robust part catalogues at your leisure, and our team of industry experts are on standby 24/7x365 to provide you with personalized quotes and competitive pricing on everything that you are interested in. Get started today and experience how we can serve as your strategic sourcing partner for all of your operational needs.


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