Countering Threats from Transients in Magnetics

In the realm of electrical engineering, transients in magnetic components pose significant challenges that can lead to system failures. Understanding and mitigating these threats is crucial for ensuring the reliability and longevity of electrical systems. This article delves into the origins of elec...

Understanding Electrical Transients in Magnetics

Electrical transients are sudden, short-duration spikes in voltage or current. They can arise from various sources such as lightning strikes, switching operations, or inherent instabilities within the system. These transients can cause severe stress on magnetic components, leading to potential malfunctions or catastrophic failures.


Causes of Electrical Transients

Electrical transients can originate from external factors like environmental conditions or input/output operations. Internally, they can be caused by the natural response of the system's reactive components: resistors, inductors, and capacitors. These components, governed by the laws of physics, react to changes in state variables, resulting in oscillations, amplification, or decay of signals.


Effects on Magnetic Components

Magnetic components, such as transformers and inductors, are particularly susceptible to transients. For instance, transformers can exhibit parasitic components that affect their response to sudden voltage or current changes. These parasitic elements can cause amplification, oscillation, or even breakdown under transient conditions.


Mitigating Transient Threats

Effective mitigation of transient threats involves understanding the behavior of magnetic components under dynamic conditions and implementing design strategies to counteract these effects.


Component Functions and Response

  1. Resistors: Dissipate energy to manage power levels.
  2. Inductors: Generate opposing voltages to slow current changes.
  3. Capacitors: Absorb or release charge to stabilize voltage changes.

The induced voltage and current in inductors and capacitors are inversely proportional to the circuit's time constant. A smaller time constant means faster energy transfer, which can lead to higher transient voltages or currents.


Transformer Design Considerations

Transformers must be designed to handle dynamic impedance transformations and provide necessary isolation. Realistic transformer models must account for parasitic components, which can significantly influence their behavior during transients. High voltage transformers, for instance, are prone to series resonance due to leakage inductance and self-capacitance, leading to oscillations and potential saturation.


Practical Mitigation Techniques

  1. High Bandwidth Instruments: Use to detect latent transient amplification and persistent ringing during normal operations.
  2. Worst Case Analysis: Evaluate bias currents and flux density for worst-case scenarios, including maximum voltage and temperature conditions.
  3. Current Transformer Verification: Ensure that protection circuits can detect transient overcurrents despite reduced output due to saturation.
  4. Residual Magnetization Control: Verify that residual magnetization does not impair operation, ensuring sufficient headroom for magnetization.
  5. Design of Experiments (DOEs), Risk Reduction Tests (RRTs), and Accelerated Stress Tests (ASTs): Implement these throughout the design stages to mitigate risks effectively.
  6. Protective Components: Use components like MOVs (Metal Oxide Varistors) to safeguard circuits from lightning-induced transients.


Countering threats from transients in magnetics requires a thorough understanding of the underlying causes and the implementation of robust design strategies. By employing high bandwidth detection instruments, performing worst-case analyses, and integrating protective measures, engineers can significantly reduce the risk of transient-induced failures in magnetic components. Adopting a proactive approach to design and testing ensures the resilience and reliability of electrical systems in the face of transient threats.

Published on 22 May 2020 by Victor W. Quinn / Stéphane PERES


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A “Game Changer” Rectangular Aluminum Electrolytic Capacitor, Called Cubisic SLP

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