|Publication number||USRE42319 E1|
|Application number||US 11/601,617|
|Publication date||May 3, 2011|
|Filing date||Nov 17, 2006|
|Priority date||Jun 8, 1998|
|Also published as||CA2301456A1, CA2301456C, EP1077452A2, EP1077452A3, US6430019|
|Publication number||11601617, 601617, US RE42319 E1, US RE42319E1, US-E1-RE42319, USRE42319 E1, USRE42319E1|
|Inventors||Kenneth R. Martenson, Jerry L. Mosesian|
|Original Assignee||Mersen France Sb Sas|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (59), Non-Patent Citations (1), Referenced by (10), Classifications (23), Legal Events (3)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 09/093,367, filed on Jun. 8, 1998, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,040,971.
The present invention relates generally to circuit protection devices, and more particularly to a device that suppresses transient current/voltage surges.
Many of today's highly sensitive electronic components, such as computer and computer-related equipment, that are used in commercial and residential applications contain transient voltage surge suppression (TVSS) devices. These devices protect sensitive and/or expensive electronic circuits and components from damage from over-voltage fault conditions. Such transient voltage surge suppression systems are typically designed for moderate fault conditions expected in normal use. In this respect, such systems are designed to suppress relatively minor fault conditions, but are not designed to protect against major over-voltage conditions. Examples of major over-voltage conditions include those that may occur from losing the system neutral or ground termination, or from repetitive current pulses as from lightning strikes. Such major over-voltage conditions can have catastrophic effects on sensitive electronic circuits and components. To prevent such fault conditions from reaching and damaging electronic circuits, components and equipment, it has been known to utilize larger voltage surge suppression devices. These devices are typically deployed at a building's incoming electrical service power lines, or within a building's power distribution grid to control power surges in the electrical lines to the building, or in the electrical lines to specific floors of the building. Such voltage surge suppression devices typically include a plurality of metal-oxide varistors (MOVs) connected in parallel between a service power line and a ground or neutral line, or between a neutral line and a ground line.
MOVs are non-linear, electronic devices made of ceramic-like materials comprising zinc-oxide grains and a complex amorphous inner granular material. Over a wide range of current, the voltage remains within a narrow band commonly called the varistor voltage. A log-log plot of the instantaneous voltage in volts versus the instantaneous current in amps yields a nearly horizontal line. It is this unique current-voltage characteristic that makes MOVs ideal devices for protection of sensitive electronic circuits against electrical surges, over-voltages, faults or shorts.
When exposed to voltages exceeding their voltage value, MOVs become highly conductive devices that absorb and dissipate the energy related to the overvoltage and simultaneously limit dump current to a neutral line or ground plane. If an over-voltage condition is not discontinued, the MOVs will continue to overheat and can ultimately fail catastrophically, i.e., rupture or explode. Such catastrophic failure may destroy the sensitive electronic equipment and components in the vicinity of the MOVs. The destruction of electrical equipment or components in the electrical distribution system can disrupt power to buildings or floors for prolonged periods of time until such components are replaced or repaired. Moreover, the failure of the MOVs in a surge suppression system may allow the fault condition to reach the sensitive electronic equipment the system was designed to protect.
In U.S. Pat. No. 6,040,971 to Martenson et al., entitled CIRCUIT PROTECTION DEVICE, there is disclosed a voltage suppression device for protecting an array of metal oxide varistors in a surge suppression system. The device was operable to drop offline an entire array of MOVs in the event that a voltage surge reached a level wherein one or more of the MOVs in the array might catastrophically fail. In the disclosed device and system, a trigger MOV was designed to have a lower voltage rating than any of the MOVs in the array. Thus, the entire array would drop offline in the event that a surge condition exceeded the voltage rating of the trigger MOV. In some instances, however, it may be desirable to maintain the array of MOVs active and to drop offline only those MOVs sensing a voltage surge exceeding the voltage rating of that particular MOV.
The present invention provides a circuit protection device, and a transient voltage surge suppression system incorporating such device, to protect an electrical system from catastrophic failure due to excessive over-voltage conditions or repetitive fault conditions.
In accordance with the present invention, there is provided a voltage suppression device for suppressing voltage surges in an electrical circuit. The device is comprised of a voltage sensitive element having a first surface and a second surface and a predetermined voltage rating across the first and second surfaces. The voltage sensitive element increases in temperature as the voltage applied across the first and second surfaces exceeds the voltage rating. A first terminal has one end electrically connected to the first surface of the voltage sensitive element and the other end of the terminal is connected to a ground or neutral line of an electrical circuit. A thermal element is electrically connected to the second surface of the voltage sensitive element, the thermal element being an electrically conductive solid at room temperature and having a predetermined softening temperature. A second terminal has one end in electrical connection with the second surface of the thermal element and another end connected to an electrical power line of an electrical circuit. The voltage sensitive element senses the voltage drop between the electrical power line and ground or neutral line. The second terminal is maintained in contact with the thermal element by the thermal element and is biased away therefrom. The second terminal moves away from electrical contact with the thermal element and breaks the electrical current path if an over-voltage condition sensed by the voltage sensitive element exceeds the voltage rating of the voltage sensitive element. Such an over-voltage causes the voltage sensitive element to heat the thermal element beyond its softening point. An arc shield moves from a first position wherein the arc shield allows contact between the second terminal and the thermal element to a second position wherein the shield is disposed between the second contact and the thermal element, i.e., when the second terminal moves from electrical contact with the thermal element.
In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a voltage suppression device for suppressing voltage surges in an electrical circuit. The device is comprised of a voltage sensitive element having a predetermined voltage rating. The voltage sensitive element increases in temperature as voltage applied across the voltage sensitive element exceeds the voltage rating. Terminals electrically connect the voltage sensitive element between a power line of an electrical circuit and a ground or neutral line of the electrical circuit. A normally closed, thermal switch is electrically connected in series with the voltage sensitive element between the power line and the voltage sensitive element. The thermal switch is thermally coupled to the voltage sensitive element wherein the thermal switch moves from a normally closed position to an open position to form a gap between the thermal switch and the voltage sensitive element when the temperature of the voltage sensitive element reaches a level indicating an over-voltage condition. A non-conductive barrier is operable to move into the gap when the thermal switch moves to an open position. The barrier prevents line voltage surges from arcing between the thermal switch and the voltage sensitive element.
It is an object of the present invention to provide a circuit protection device to protect sensitive circuit components and systems from current and voltage surges.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a circuit protection device as described above to prevent catastrophic failure of a transient voltage surge suppression (TVSS) system within a circuit that may occur from repetitive circuit faults or from a single fault of excessive proportion.
A further object of the present invention is to provide a circuit protection device as described above that includes a current suppression device and a voltage suppression device.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a circuit protection device as described above for protecting a transient voltage surge suppression system having metal-oxide varistors (MOVs).
A still further object of the present invention is to provide a circuit protection device as described above that includes a metal-oxide varistor as a circuit-breaking device.
A still further object of the present invention is to provide a circuit protection device as described above that is modular in design and easily replaceable in a circuit.
These and other objects and advantages will become apparent from the following description of a preferred embodiment of the present invention taken together with the accompanying drawings.
The invention may take physical form in certain parts and arrangement of parts, a preferred embodiment of which will be described in detail in the specification and illustrated in the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and wherein:
Referring now to the drawings wherein the showings are for the purpose of illustrating a preferred embodiment of the invention only, and not for the purpose of limiting same,
Voltage suppression device 10 is generally comprised of a voltage sensitive element 12 that is contained within a housing 20. Housing 20 is comprised of a base section 22 and a cover section 24. Base section 22 is adapted to receive and hold the operative elements of a voltage suppression device 10. To this end, base section 22 includes a generally planar bottom wall portion 32. A generally U-shaped structure, comprised of a hack wall 34 and opposed side walls 36, extends from bottom wall 32. Side walls 36 are formed to define a cavity 42 adjacent to back wall 34. Cavity 42 is dimensioned to receive voltage sensitive element 12. In the embodiment shown, voltage sensitive element 12 is rectangular in shape, and therefore, cavity 42 is rectangular in shape. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, voltage sensitive element 12 may be cylindrical in shape, and thus the bottom portion of cavity 42 may be semi-cylindrical in shape to receive a cylindrical element.
Referring now to voltage sensitive element 12, in accordance with the present invention, such element is voltage sensitive and operable to heat up when a voltage applied across the device exceeds a preselected voltage. In accordance with the present invention, voltage sensitive element 12 is preferably comprised of a metal-oxide varistor.
By way of background, MOVs are primarily comprised of zinc oxide granules that are sintered together to form a disc. Zinc oxide, as a solid, is a highly conductive material. However, minute air gaps or grain boundaries exist between the sintered zinc oxide granules in a MOV, and these air gaps and grain boundaries inhibit current flow at low voltages. At higher voltages, the gaps and boundaries between the zinc oxide granules are not wide enough to block current flow, and thus the MOV becomes a highly conductive component. This conduction, however, generates significant heat energy in the MOV. MOVs are typically classified and identified by a “nominal voltage.” The nominal voltage of an MOV, typically identified by VN(DC), is the voltage at which the device changes from an “off state” (i.e., the state where the MOV is generally non-conductive) and enters its conductive mode of operation.
Importantly, this voltage is characterized at the 1 mA point and has specified minimum and maximum voltage levels, referred to hereinafter as VMIN and VMAX respectively. By way of example, and not limitation, a metal-oxide varistor (MOV) having a nominal varistor voltage, VN(DC), of 200 volts may actually exhibit a change from its generally non-conductive to its conductive state at a voltage between a minimum voltage, VMIN, of 184 volts and a maximum voltage, VMAX, of 228 volts. This range of operating voltages for a MOV of a rated nominal voltage VN(DC) is the result of the nature of the device. In this respect, the actual voltage value of a MOV basically depends on the thickness of the MOV and on the number and size of the zinc oxide granules disposed between the two electrode surfaces. At the present time, it is simply impossible, because of the construction and composition of metal-oxide varistors, to produce identical devices having identical operating characteristics.
Thus, although MOV 12 of over-voltage protection device 10 preferably has a rated “nominal voltage” VN(DC) at 1 mA, the actual voltage at which MOV 12 and every other MOV changes from a non-conducting state to a conducting state may vary between a VMIN and a VMAX for the rated nominal voltage value. In the context of the present invention, the minimum voltage VMIN of the selected MOV 12 is important, as will be discussed in greater detail below.
Referring again to base section 22 of housing 20, as best seen in
Each sidewall 36 includes a slot 44 that is spaced from cavity 42 to define a wall or rail 46 of predetermined thickness. Slots 44 in opposed side walls 36 are aligned with each other and extend a predetermined length from the free, upper ends of side wall 36 toward bottom wall 32.
A pair of contact elements 52, 54 are provided for electrical attachment to the opposite sides of MOV 12. Referring now to
In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, cavity 42 and contact element 54 allow housing 20 to receive MOVs of different thicknesses. In this respect, many MOVs are formed to have the same overall shape, but vary only in thickness. The thickness of the MOV determines the rated “nominal voltage” VN(DC) of MOV 12. By providing a deep cavity 42 and contact element 54 having a spring biasing feature, different MOVs 12 of varying thicknesses may be used in housing 20, thereby enabling the formation of a voltage suppression device 10 having different voltage ratings. Regardless of the thickness of the MOV used, contact element 54 forces the MOV against rail 46, thereby positioning surface 12a of MOV 12 in the same relative position within housing 20.
Referring now to
Like contact element 54, contact element 52 is formed of a conductive spring metal. In a normal configuration, body portion 52a, leg portion 52b and arm portion 52c are flat and lie in the same general plane. Elbow portion 52d and finger portion 52e are bent to one side of this plane. Contact element 52 is mounted to base section 22 in a generally rectangular mounting boss 72 that extends from both bottom wall 32 and a side wall 36. Mounting boss 72 includes a slot 74, best seen in
In the embodiment shown, solder material 82 is formed of an electrically conductive material or fusible alloy that has a melting temperature of about 95° C. The exposed surface of the zinc oxide granules of MOV 12 allows the solder material 82 to adhere to the surface of MOV 12. When soldered to MOV 12, arm portion 52c of contact element 52 is in a first position, best seen in
As best seen in
Cover portion 24 of housing 20 is generally rectangular in shape and defines a cavity that is dimensioned to enclose base section 22 and the components mounted thereon. Cover section 24 is adapted to be attached to base section 22. Cover section 24 and base section 22 are preferably formed of a molded plastic material and may be joined by ultrasonic welding. In the embodiment shown, apertures 26 are formed in cover section 24 to receive tabs 28 projecting from side walls 36 of base section 22, as seen in
Referring now to the operation of voltage suppression device 10, one or more voltage suppression devices 10 may be used together to protect a circuit against an over-voltage fault.
Each voltage suppression device 10 is connected across a power line designated 92 and a ground or neutral line designated 94. Specifically, contact element 52 of each voltage suppression device 10 is connected to power line 92 and contact element 54 of each voltage suppression device 10 is connected to ground or neutral line 94. In the embodiment of voltage suppression system 90 shown, a fuse element 96 precedes suppression system 90 and power line 92 to prevent an over-current condition in excess of what system 90 can handle from reaching system 90 and the circuit to be protected (not shown). In the system described above, i.e., a system 90 having ten voltage suppression devices 10, each having a peak current surge rating of 10,000 amps, fuse element 96 would have a current rating of about 100,000 amps. When connected as shown in
During a fault, an over-current condition or an over-voltage condition may appear. In the event of a high over-current condition that is in excess of the total peak current surge ratings for all devices 10 in system 90, fuse element 96 will open, thereby disconnecting system 90 from the electrical supply and preventing damage to the system components. In the event of an over-voltage condition or repetitive pulse condition, MOVs 12 of voltage suppression devices 10 will experience an overvoltage condition. When this occurs, thermal energy is created by the surge current and each MOV 12 begins absorbing energy and dissipating such energy as heat. As the voltage across an MOV 12 becomes larger, electrical conductivity of the MOV 12 increases and increased amounts of heat are thereby generated. As indicated above, because the actual characteristics of each MOV 12 are not identical, one MOV will have a lower energy rating and a faster thermal response time as contrasted to the others. Thus, various MOVs will heat up more rapidly than other MOVs within voltage suppression system 90. If the fault condition is severe enough, the MOV of one or more voltage suppression devices 10 will heat up to the melting temperature of low temperature solder material 82. When this occurs, arm portion 52c of contact element 52 is no longer held in its first position (as shown in
When one voltage suppression device 10 drops “off-line,” the current surge rating of the entire suppression system 90 is reduced. Using the example set forth above, if one voltage suppression device 10 drops “off-line,” system 90 will lose the 10,000 ampere surge capability of the dropped device 10, but would still have a current surge rating of 90,000 amps, until such time as the off-line suppression device 10 is replaced.
The present invention thus provides a voltage suppression device 10 that may be used alone or in conjunction with other similar devices to form a voltage suppression system. Device 10 is a self-contained unit that is operable to suppress voltage spikes in a circuit and drop off-line when the voltage spike significantly exceeds the rated nominal voltage of the device to be protected thereby preventing catastrophic failure of the same.
Referring now to
In this respect,
The embodiments shown heretofore are adapted for use in a specific orientation. In this respect, arc shield 88 is operable under gravity to move to an insulating position between arm portion 52c and surface 12a of MOV 12. It will of course be appreciated that some applications may require positioning of a voltage suppression device 10 in other than an upright position.
Voltage suppression device 100 is generally comprised of a voltage sensitive element 112 that is contained within housing 120. Housing 120 is comprised of a base section 122 and a cover section 124. Base section 122 is adapted to receive and hold the operative elements of voltage suppression device 100. To this end, base section 122 includes a planar bottom wall portion 132 and a generally U-shaped structure comprised of a back wall 134 and opposed sidewalls 136 that extend from bottom wall 132. A slotted rail 138 is formed along the inner surface of each sidewall 136. Rails 138 are disposed in alignment with each other and extend generally perpendicularly from bottom wall 132. A cylindrical cavity, designated 138a, is defined at the bottom of the slot in slotted rails 138. Cavity 138a is dimensioned to receive a compression spring 139, as best seen in
A pair of electrical contact elements 152, 154 are provided for electrical attachment to the opposite sides of MOV 112. Contact element 154, best seen in
As best seen in
As best illustrated in
An arc shield 188 is provided between contact element 152 and MOV 112, as best seen in
As best seen in
As best seen in
Referring now to the operation of voltage suppression device 100, one or more of such devices may be used together to protect the circuit against an over-voltage fault. In this respect, over-voltage device 100 may be part of a voltage suppression system as schematically illustrated in
Voltage suppression device 100 thus provides a self contained unit that is operable to suppress voltage spikes in the circuit, and to drop off-line when the voltage is significantly higher than the rated voltage of the device thereby preventing catastrophic failure of voltage suppression device 100. Voltage suppression device 100 is operable in any orientation and provides both a visual indication of the condition of voltage suppression device 100, as well as an electrical signal to an external circuit or device that is indicative of the condition of device 100.
Referring now to
Tabs 202 are provided to allow voltage suppression device 100′ to be locked into a base 210. Base 210 is generally rectangular in shape, and includes a flat bottom wall 212 and short side walls 214. A first conductive leg 216 extends from base 210 and is attached to ground or neutral line 94. A second conductive leg 218 extends from bottom wall 212 and is electrically connected to power line 92. In the embodiment shown, legs 216, 218 are generally L-shaped and attached to ground or neutral line 94 and power line 92 by fasteners 219. Base section 210 includes a first pair of spaced apart openings 222, 224 that extend through bottom wall 212 adjacent conductive legs 216, 218. Openings 222, 224 are dimensioned to receive contact leg portions 154c, 152b of voltage suppression device 100′. Openings 222, 224 allow contact legs 154c, 152b to come into electrical contact with conductive leg portions 216, 218, and to be electrically connected to ground or neutral line 94 and power line 92, respectively. A second pair of openings 226, 228 is formed in opposed side walls 214. Openings 226, 228 are adapted to receive tabs 202 on voltage suppression device 100′ to allow voltage suppression device 100′ to be snapped into base 210. As indicated above, when voltage suppression device 100′ is attached to base 210, contact legs 152b, 154c are in electrical contact with power line 92 and ground or neutral line 94, respectively.
Base 210 is provided for permanent attachment to power line 92 and ground or neutral line 94 Voltage suppression device 100′ is thus replaceable in the event that voltage suppression device 100′ exceeds its voltage rating and opens the circuit. When voltage suppression device 100′ has “tripped,” it may easily replaced by removing it from base 210 and replacing it with another voltage suppression device 100′ of like rating. In this respect, in accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is preferably provided indication means for insuring that a voltage suppression device 100′ of a particular size when removed from base 210 is replaced with another voltage suppression device 100′ of the same size and voltage rating. Preferably, some type of indication means is provided on both voltage suppression device 100′ and base 210 to insure a proper matching of voltage suppression device 100′ to base 210. In
The embodiment shown in
The foregoing describes preferred embodiments of the present invention. It should be appreciated that these embodiments are described for purposes of illustration only, and that numerous alterations and modifications may be practiced by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is intended that all such modifications and alterations be included insofar as they come within the scope of the invention as claimed or the equivalents thereof.
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|U.S. Classification||361/124, 361/127, 361/118, 218/117, 361/103|
|International Classification||H02H1/00, H02H5/04, H01H9/32, H01T1/12, H01H37/76, H01T1/14, H02H9/04, H01C7/12|
|Cooperative Classification||H01T1/12, H02H9/042, H01H37/761, H01T1/14, H01C7/126, H01H9/32|
|European Classification||H01T1/12, H02H9/04C, H01T1/14, H01C7/12C|
|Sep 13, 2010||AS||Assignment|
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|Feb 6, 2014||FPAY||Fee payment|
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|Jul 7, 2014||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: MERSEN USA NEWBURYPORT-MA, L.L.C., MASSACHUSETTS
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