Previous, Incomplete Solutions
NOsparc technology has no true competition. Our intellectual property (IP) counsel has conducted a Freedom to Operate (FTO) analysis and offered the opinion that our products are in a demonstrable “IP white space.” There are, however, several other ways that industry addresses arcing:
The biggest obstacle faced by Arc Suppression Technologies is industry acceptance of the status quo problems caused by arc-related destruction. Primarily, engineers, designers, and technicians address arcing by selecting larger, more durable, and more expensive relays that may last a little bit longer before failure.
Electronic components, commonly referred to as “snubbers**,” are mistakenly believed to mitigate or eliminate arcing by many engineers, designers, and technicians. These devices have a role in limiting some of the effects of electromagnetic interference (EMI), however, they do not suppress arcing in power switching applications.
CUSTOM, APPLICATION-SPECIFIC MEANS AND METHODS
Very complex and application specific “hybrid-power relays” have been developed by some companies that employ semi-effective to ineffective arc suppression means. As a rule, these means cannot be used outside of the applications for which they were developed. Other companies employ effective means (such as power plants using jets of compressed inert gas to extinguish an arc) that are simply not scalable and/or economical in other applications.
Solid-state relays are not truly relays, but rather electronic circuits that utilize semiconductors to implement switching. According to industry estimates, solid-state relays might achieve 20% of the global relay market by 2019. Solid-state relays operate silently, are highly reliable in many environments, and are good choices when high switching speeds are needed.
The downside of solid-state relays is that they typically cost 2 to 5 times that of a comparable electromechanical relay for most commercial and industrial applications. This is primarily driven by the fact that solid-state relays generate considerable heat when current is flowing, impeding their switching efficacy. To help dissipate heat, solid-state relays are typically mounted to large heat sinks that are several times the weight and size of the solid-state relay and add an additional 50% to 60% to the cost of implementation. Additional heat mitigating costs might also include fans, refrigeration, and air conditioning.
Mercury-wetted relays and Mercury displacement relays are extremely long lived and effective switches. Environmental concerns, however, have mostly prohibited their use in new applications and as replacements … making our solution a valuable alternative for companies that are seeking alternate solutions.
** The term “snubber” in electrical circuits refers to component combinations (such as resistor + capacitor, or “RC snubber”) that limit the effects of rapid voltage rise in a circuit … but do not affect or suppress arcing across contacts.