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Protect equipment from damaging transient voltage

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Given the on-going power challenges in the South African market, the majority of enterprises are now fully on board with the requirement for backup power solutions such as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), writes Marco Da Silva, MD: Power Solutions at The Jasco Group.
However, these backup solutions, as well as other equipment driven by microprocessors, can be damaged by ‘noise’ on the electricity supply line. This noise, also known as transient voltage, is caused by distortions of the sine wave which changes its shape in a way that makes it difficult for equipment to deal with. It has a slow, long-term negative impact on the reliability of electronics as a result of continuous strain over time, and can cause unanticipated failure of critical equipment, including the UPS.
Transient Voltage Surge Suppression (TVSS) should therefore be considered as part of a complete power protection solution, particularly in commercial and industrial facilities, to prevent these harmful transients from damaging business-critical equipment.
Transients can be likened to instabilities in power supply, and take a number of different forms. Common mode surges are typically introduced into the power supply by external factors, such as voltage spikes that result from lightning strikes or power outages. Differential mode surges are generated by internal events, such as variable speed drives, switching, and equipment such as welding machines and plasma cutters that send ‘dirty’ power back to the utility and can cause sensitive equipment failure down the power line.
This is problematic for many organisations, as the majority of microprocessor-driven equipment requires a clean, stable, consistent and filtered supply of power. TVSS helps to ‘clean’ this dirty power supply and in turn reduces electrical failure and cost of repairs. While this technology is not new, it has seen significant evolution of late, and next-generation products offer far more effective protection than their predecessors.
Surge suppression technology originated as a single device or electronic component application that acted to dissipate transient activity. However, the effect of performing this function led to the device itself deteriorating as a result of transient activity causing heat to increase and build up in the component. As the device itself deteriorated, so too did its performance, with slower responses that enabled more and more destructive energy to pass through to equipment it was protecting. The surge suppression technology was intentionally self-sacrificing, and the longer it was used for, the more its performance reduced until it no longer functioned. Surge suppression therefore needed to be replaced frequently, which was not cost or time effective.
Second-generation technology, commonly called ‘staged’ surge suppression, combines a number of these surge suppression components arranged in stages to dissipate the effects of transients on a single device. This extends the lifespan of surge suppression and also increases its performance and effectiveness, but it still suffers from the issue of deterioration while protecting equipment from surges. Heat build-up still affects the device, and as each component or stage loses effectiveness, the solution will ultimately fail.
In order to address this challenge, an efficient process is required to dissipate heat from electronics in the surge suppressor. This ensures that electronics can be protected and that the life of surge suppression devices themselves are extended, delivering increased cost effectiveness. Next-generation TVSS solutions are not purely electronic, but combine an electronic hybrid network design with a complex chemical compound that has the ability to dissipate high levels of energy and heat.
The inclusion of the chemical compound in these next-generation TVSS solutions help to overcome the age-old problem of the deterioration of electronic components through a thermal conversion process. The electronic components perform as they always have, acting to ‘trap’ surges. The chemical compound then draws the heat out of the electronics, dissipating it faster than it can build up.
The electronic components therefore do not suffer from the destructive consequences of the build-up of heat, something that has traditionally been an issue in electronic surge suppression technology. The benefits of such a hybrid, next-gen TVSS solution includes dramatically improved lifespan, superior transient surge suppression and constant levels of performance that provide better protection of critical equipment.
The type of continual, low-level power fluctuations typified by transients can occur millions of times a day, wreaking havoc on a variety of electronic equipment from server farms to factory automation equipment to cellular base stations. However, the majority of surge protection devices are ineffective at addressing this power problem. Next-generation TVSS assists all applications to achieve the inherent quality of supply required to maximise the longevity of equipment. It can be delivered as a standalone solution for specific applications, or integrated into other technologies such as a UPS or voltage stabiliser, to provide double protection of transient filtration and suppression.