IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - September/October 2017 - 96

the glass envelope and served as anodes. The number of the anode arms
varied depending on the application
as well as the number of phases required, oftentimes one per phase.

HV solid-state devices, mercury-arc
valves were widely used in nearly all
HVdc applications. (See Figure 1.)

Origins
Early mercury-arc valve rectifiers
took the place of expensive and inefficient ac/dc motor-generator sets
that powered trolleys, subways, and
industrial equipment. Mercury-arc
valves typically were enclosed by
a glass envelope holding a vacuum.
But instead of being filled with gas
like common cold cathode gas-filled
tubes, the cathode was formed from
a pool of self-restoring mercury located at the bottom of the envelope.
As a result, the valves were much
more durable and could handle higher currents than gas discharge tubes.
Graphite rods, separated by glass to
prevent arcing, were placed inside

How they Work

figure 1. A mercury-arc valve at the Manitoba
Hydro Radisson Converter Station. (From
Wikipedia, Creative Commons SA 1.0.)

An HV arc between the cathode and
electrode activated the mercury-arc
valve, generally when the electrode
connected with the cathode. A magnetic field was produced after the
electrode was withdrawn from the
mercury cathode pool, creating an
arc. Free electrons emitted from the
cathode triggered an ionization process within the mercury vapor. The
mercur y ions were drawn to the
cathode, and electrons were attracted to the anode, producing the rectifying current that was injected into
an inductive circuit. The mercury

INNOVATIONS IN PLASTIC

96	

ieee power & energy magazine	

september/october 2017



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - September/October 2017

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IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - September/October 2017 - Cover3
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