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Electronic DC Circuit Breaker

A German research team has explored the technological basis for reducing the energy losses in power grids and electric devices by more than half by using direct current (DC). DC allows for lower power losses when compared to AC. The five project partners from industry and science investigated the foundations of a semiconductor-based and completely electronic circuit breaker that can be used for future DC power grids and applications. In the past, the lack of efficient and cost-effective circuit breaker technologies has made it impossible to convert distribution grids and board nets for electromobility to DC. The only electromechanical circuit breakers available today implicate the risk of arcing when switching DC current and voltages. Furthermore, they are slow to react, heavy, unwieldy and expensive.

Infineon Technologies AG had the team lead together with Airbus, E-T-A Elektrotechnische Apparate GmbH, Siemens AG and the University of Bremen’s Institute for Electrical Drives, Power Electronics, and Devices (IALB). The European Center for Power Electronics e.V. (ECPE) provided further support. Among others the project partners explored innovative semiconductor components such as the Over Current Blocking Field Effect Transistor (OCB-FET) for voltage classes up to 1,500 V. New structure and connection technologies were formulated and tested as well as new switching topologies. The team built demonstrators for the project results in the areas of on-board aviation grids, electromobility and photovoltaics as well as for direct current distribution networks.


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