The powerful photons are getting smarter

Disconnecting Circuit Breaker with integrated Fiber Optic Current Sensor – an innovation that saves space and enhances power availability and reliability

The electrical power industry is often considered to be conservative, taking many years to adopt new technologies. To some extent that’s the nature of the sector given the high cost of non-conformance – but things are changing and this is encouraging from an innovation perspective.

Current measurement on power networks is still most commonly done using iron core transformers, based on principles discovered in the 19th century by Michael Faraday. Faraday found that light waves could also be influenced by the magnetic field set up by an electrical current, but in his day, lacked the technology to turn this into a practical application.

ABB’s latest generation of fiber optic current sensor (FOCS) uses the so called Faraday effect that measures the changes in light waves which are directly proportional to the current passing through this device. FOCS is an extremely compact sensor that ABB has now successfully integrated into another of its innovations, the Disconnecting Circuit Breaker or DCB (calculate savings and watch site video).

The DCB with FOCS serves three essential functions (current switching, safety isolation and earthing and current measurement) all in one integrated device (watch animation). Furthermore the new FOCS delivers its current measurements using the high speed process bus protocol according to the IEC 61850-9-2LE standard, providing power utilities much easier ways to access and utilize this critical power system information.

The new ‘combo’ offering from ABB has the potential to reduce the overall physical footprint of the substation where it is installed by up to 60 per cent compared with a conventional solution (watch animation). It is easier to install and maintain and has in-built intelligence enabling it to be part of a more flexible, reliable and smarter grid.

DCB with FOCS is a good example of how the power sector is adapting to megatrends and new market realities with advanced technology solutions that provide cost efficient and secure electricity supplies while minimizing environmental impact.


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About the author

Richard Thomas

I am the Global Product Manager for ABB's live tank circuit breakers. I am based in Ludvika, Sweden but most of the time I am on the road working with ABB's global breaker team developing our portfolio to best meet our customers' needs for safe, reliable, smart, cost effective and eco-efficient high voltage switching solutions.
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