The five general types of high-voltage circuit breakers are as follows.

1 Oil circuit breakers use standard transformer oil, an effective medium for quenching the arc and providing an open break after current has dropped to zero. There are two general types of oil circuit breakers: dead-tank for the higher voltage ranges and live-tank for lower voltages.

Oil circuit breakers have been improved by adding such features as oil-tight joints, vents, and separate chambers to prevent the escape of oil. Also, improved operating mechanisms prevent gas pressure from reclosing the contacts, making them reliable for system voltages up to 362 kV.

However, above 230 kV, oil-less breakers are more economical.

2 Air-blast circuit breakers were developed as alternatives to oil circuit breakers as voltages increased. They depend on the good insulating and arc-quenching properties of dry and clean compressed air injected into the contact region.

3 Magnetic-air circuit breakers use a combination of strong magnetic field with a special arc chute to lengthen the arc until the system voltage is unable to maintain the arc any longer. They are used principally in power distribution systems.

4 Gas circuit breakers take advantage of the excellent arc-quenching and insulating properties of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) gas. These outdoor breakers can interrupt system voltages up to 800 kV.

These circuit breakers are typically included in gas insulated substations (GISs) that offer space-saving and environmental advantages over conventional outdoor substations. Gas (SF6) circuit breakers are made with ratings up to 800 kV and continuous cur rent up to 4000 A.

They are alternatives to oil and vacuum breakers for metal-clad and metal-enclosed switchgear up to 38 kV.

5 Vacuum circuit breakers, more accurately termed vacuum-bottle interrupters, are generally used for voltages up to 38 kV and continuous current ratings to 3000 A. They are used for higher system voltage, current, and interrupting ratings, and are typically specified for metal-clad and metal-enclosed switchgear in distribution systems.

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