Modeling of energy transport in arcing electrical contacts to determine mass loss

Jonathan Swingler, John W. McBride

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a model which calculates the amount of erosion of an electrical contact undergoing arcing for a range of contact opening conditions. The model assumes all vaporized material is lost from the contact and that the material lost is related to the energy received by the contact. It is proposed that two processes occur which transport energy to the contact surface from the arc discharge. These have been called the radial transport process and the channeled transport process. Calculations at different ratios of the transport processes are compared to experimental data at 9 A, 64 V DC, The modeling procedure consists of several stages: 1) the arc discharge is divided into three regions which generates energy for dissipation; 2) the energy from each region is dissipated through the arc and delivered to the contact surface by radial/channeling transport processes; 3) heat flow through the contact from the surface is calculated using an explicit numerical finite difference scheme dependant upon energy input, contact dimensions, and material properties. This is then used to determine the temperature gradient of the surface and any phase changes; 4) knowing the condition of the contact surface, and contact separation, the mass loss is calculated assuming all evaporated material is removed from the surface.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-60
Number of pages7
JournalIEEE Transactions on Components and Packaging Technologies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1998


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