ABB solves 100-year-old electrical puzzle – new technology to enable future DC grid

ABB, the leading power and automation technology group, today announced a breakthrough in the ability to interrupt direct current, solving a 100-year-old electrical engineering puzzle and paving the way for a more efficient and reliable electricity supply system.

After years of research, ABB has developed the world’s first circuit breaker for high voltage direct current (HVDC). It combines very fast mechanics with power electronics, and will be capable of ‘interrupting’ power flows equivalent to the output of a large power station within 5 milliseconds- that is thirty times faster than the blink of a human eye.

The breakthrough removes a 100-year-old barrier to the development of DC transmission grids, which will enable the efficient integration and exchange of renewable energy. DC grids will also improve grid reliability and enhance the capability of existing AC (alternating current) networks. ABB is in discussions with power utilities to identify pilot projects for the new development.

“ABB has written a new chapter in the history of electrical engineering,” said Joe Hogan, CEO of ABB. “This historical breakthrough will make it possible to build the grid of the future. Overlay DC grids will be able to interconnect countries and continents, balance loads and reinforce the existing AC transmission networks.”

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