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Busbars and Their Uses

6/27/2012 4:27:56 PM | by Anonymous


Used in electrical power distribution, busbars are usually made out of aluminium or copper and they are able to conduct electricity to transmit power from the source of electric power to the load. They are usually supported by insulators and conduct electricity within switchboards, substations or other electric apparatus. Some typical applications of these devices can be to form the interconnectedness of the incoming and outgoing electrical transmission lines and transformers at an electrical substation; supplying huge amounts of amperes to the electrolytic process in an aluminium smelter by using large busbars and also interconnecting generators to the main transformers in a power plant.


The size of the busbar determines its application and the amount of current that it can carry safely. They can be tubular, solid or flat depending on the application and to serve different needs. A tubular busbar is hollow and this shape allows it to dissipate heat more efficiently as it has a high surface area. Hollow or flat shaped bus bars are prevalent in high current applications. Also, the hollow section of a busbar is generally stiffer as compared to a solid rod, thus this allows a greater span between busbar support in outdoor switchyards. The smallest cross-sectional area of a busbar can be as little as 10mm2, but electrical substations would make use of busbars with a diameter of more than 50 mm as they carry great amounts of amperes. Aluminium smelters would make use of these large busbars to carry tens of thousands of amperes to the electrochemical cells that produce aluminium from molten salts.


As they carry large amount of electricity, it is important to support the busbars with insulation to prevent any accidents from happening whereby someone may accidentally touch the bus bar. Insulation can either support the busbar or completely surround it. They can be prevented from accidental touch by placing the bus bars at an elevated height so it would not be easily accessible or by a metal earth enclosure. Some bus bars such as the earth bus bar can be bolted directly into the housing chassis of their enclosure. This prevents unwanted touch and also saves the bus bar from any damage it may incur when left exposed. There are several other ways that busbars can be connected to one another or the electrical apparatus with which they would be used with such as by bolting, clamping or welding connections. Switchgears, panelboards or busways usually contain the busbars and the electrical supply is split by the distribution boards into different circuits. Busways are a type of busbars that have a protective cover and are long in shape. Also referred to as bus ducts, these devices allow the electricity to branch out to different circuits at any point along its surface; unlike regular busbars that allow branching of the main supply only at one location.


The most common types of busbars present in the industry today are rigid busbars, strain busbars and insulated phase busbars. Each of these different types of busbars has different applications and uses. The rigid busbars are used in low, medium or high voltage applications, constructed with aluminium or copper bars and they make use of porcelain to insulate them. As for the strain busbars, they are mostly used in high voltage applications and are usually strung between the metal structures of a substation. They are held in place by suspension-type insulators. Lastly, as for the insulated-phase bus bars, they are used at medium voltage and similar to the rigid bus bars, they are rigid bars that are supported by insulators. These busbars are able to eliminate short circuits between adjacent phases.

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