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Multiphysics Simulation: An IEEE Spectrum Insert
Manager’s Guide

Control of Joule Heating Extends Performance and Device Life

Jean-Louis Gelet and Antoine Gerlaud
Mersen, France

Large electrical systems carrying high currents could pose a danger if any of their components, such as fuses and bus bars, fail. In order to increase safety and improve manufacturing, it is necessary to understand the failure mechanisms of those components. One of those components, a bus bar, is made up of a single piece of conducting metal that replaces individual, thick cables when conducting a large current across a short distance and to many loads.

Mersen, an international company with expertise in surge protection, manufactures bus bars that are laminates with a film of insulating material glued between conducting plates at different potentials. If the temperature in a bus bar gets too high, however, the glue or insulation can be destroyed.

A group at Mersen, focusing on electric protection, used COMSOL simulations to determine the temperature field generated by the Joule effect, and eliminate any identified hot spots.

The bus bar similar to those simulated and tested in the lab.