Skip to Main Content
Measurements of the dielectric breakdown strength of an arcing gap after current zero were made to determine the effects of arc chamber venting on the reverse recovery voltage needed to breakdown a recovering gap. The recovery conditions applied closely matched those created in a molded case circuit breaker under power line fault conditions. Three different vent sizes were used to determine the effect of gas pressure on the recovery characteristics of the plasma with recovery time between 170 μs to 280 μs, and currents from 3 kAp to 15 kAp. Larger venting, providing increased cooling of the plasma, resulted in increased breakdown strength over the full range of currents. Based on the approximation that the recovering plasma breakdown strength is inversely proportional to plasma thermal temperature, breakdown voltage values were fitted to an exponential model to obtain plasma time constants and the initial holdoff voltage. Comparing these results to curve fits of E/p values showed E/p was a more accurate representation of the data. It is proposed to use E/p values when there is significant post current-zero chamber pressure. These results could be used as a guide to predicting molded case breaker interruption performance, especially for small arc chambers and short gaps.