What is a Smart Circuit breaker and how it works ?
Several companies are working on next generation ‘smart’ circuit breakers that are able to detect dangerous arcing faults in wiring. The Eaton Corporation and Hendry Telephone Company (both of which have produced industrial arc-fault circuit protection) were both awarded contracts by the Department of the Navy in December 1999 to develop arc fault circuit breakers for aircraft applications. In addition, Phoenix Aviation and Technology has licensed the E-T-A Group to use its technology in the joint development of an intelligent circuit breaker for aircraft.
How they work:
Smart circuit breakers incorporate microprocessor-based wire diagnostics within the breaker. These diagnostic boards are able to predict and locate potentially catastrophic arcing in wiring bundles before any short circuits occur. It’s like having a miniature computer in the circuit breaker.
In one example of this technology, Eaton’s Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) technology utilizes micro-electronics to monitor and analyze a circuit’s current waveform. It uses algorithms to look directly for the randomness in the 400Hz current signal to determine if an arcing event in the circuit is occurring. If it determines that an arc fault exists, a signal is sent to the circuit protection device which initiates a sequence that will safely shut down the circuit in question.
These algorithms are also able to prevent nuisance tripping by distinguishing between actual arc faults and normal ‘good’ arcs such as starting a pump or other electrically driven component. The algorithms can identify the degree of chaos or randomness in the current signal, thereby preventing the chance of nuisance tripping.