IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - May/June 2016 - 80

history

Russell N. (Russ) Yeckley and R. Gerald (Jerry) Colclaser, Jr.

first SF6 breaker design
Westinghouse engineers tell the inside story

I

IN THE UNITED STATES DURING
the early 1950s, the large majority of
high-voltage, high-power circuit breakers were designs that had evolved using
bulk oil configurations. Although these
oil breakers had an exemplary record,
the possibility of a failure, including
an explosion and subsequent oil fire,
still existed. As systems grew and
high-voltage breakers were located increasingly in urban environments, the
possible consequences of a oil breaker
failure gained significantly higher importance. In the early 1950s, the New
York Consolidated Edison Company
(Con Edison), in particular, started to
push for an "oil-less" breaker design.
As a response to the need for an oilless breaker, the Westinghouse Electric
Company initiated a program to develop breakers using sulfur hexafluoride
(SF6) gas as the insulating dielectric and
also as the interrupting medium. This
development transformed the breaker industry. Thirty years later, every
manufacturer of high-voltage breakers
adopted SF6 as the medium of choice.

Why SF6?

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the
Long-Range Major Development Section in the Westinghouse Switchgear
Division, under the direction of W.M.
Leeds, began to search for alternatives
to air as an arc interruption medium.
Initial tests were carried out by T.E.
Browne and A.P. Strom using a simple

In the 1950s, the Westinghouse Electric Company developed the first highvoltage, high-power circuit breakers that utilized sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) gas
as the dielectric and the interrupting medium. Today, SF6 circuit breakers are
widely used and constitute the standard in the electric power industry. This
"History" column, coauthored by Russell N. (Russ) Yeckley and R. Gerald (Jerry)
Colclaser, Jr., two pioneers in the Westinghouse effort to develop a better circuit breaker, details the history of that important invention.
Russ Yeckley received a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and later a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
He was employed by Westinghouse, where his initial work was in the development of oil circuit breakers. He participated in the development and testing of
the first commercial SF6 circuit breaker and has been involved in SF6 breaker
designs from 46 kV to 800 kV using self-pressure generating, double pressure,
and puffer technology. He is the inventor or coinventor on 24 U.S. patents and
has coauthored several technical papers. As a consultant, he has worked for
Siemens, ABB, and EPRI. Russ is currently employed by Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. in the design and manufacture of SF6 circuit breakers.
Jerry Colclaser earned a B.E.E. degree from the University of Cincinnati and
M.S.E.E. and D.Sc.E.E. degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. He joined the Westinghouse Power Circuit Breaker Division in 1956, where he worked on the development and testing of the first commercial high-power SF6 circuit breakers. He is the
inventor or coinventor on 21 U.S. patents, which are largely related to SF6 breaker
technology. He joined the electrical engineering department of the University of
Pittsburgh in 1970, serving as department chair from 1974 to 1984. While at Pitt, he
continued his research on the determination and effect of transient recovery voltage
on arc interruption. Jerry was a member of the IEEE High-Voltage Circuit Breaker
Subcommittee, served on a number of working groups, and was chairman of the
Working Group on Transient Recovery Voltages from 1973 to 1978. He has authored
or coauthored over 30 published papers related to his research. Jerry is an IEEE Life
Fellow and has been named a professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh.
We are privileged to welcome Russ Yeckley and Jerry Colclaser as our guest
history coauthors for this issue of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine.
-Carl Sulzberger
Associate Editor, History

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MPE.2016.2525238
Date of publication: 19 April 2016

80

ieee power & energy magazine

1540-7977/16©2016IEEE

may/june 2016



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