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Eaton wins funding to optimize digital circuit breakers

Prague, Czech Republic, November 29 – The energy market is changing fast. By 2050, we will see almost 50% of global energy come from renewable sources, while the rise of electric vehicles and energy storage solutions will put ever greater pressure on the power grids that keep our world working. Around 28% of all new car sales are expected to be electric vehicles by 2030, with the world’s energy storage capacity also set to double six times during the same period.

To support an increasingly diverse mix of energy sources and loads, power grids must evolve—becoming smarter, safer and more resilient. Robust energy storage is critical to this revolution, but today’s solutions operate on direct current (DC), unlike typical power distribution systems which use alternating current (AC). This creates a fundamental safety issue, since interrupting a DC supply upon a fault is far more challenging. Digital circuit breakers are essential to solving this, given their ability to merge both intelligent control and fast-switching protection devices.

To help enable this grid revolution, the Eaton European Innovation Center (EEIC) is embarking on a joint R&D program with the University of West Bohemia’s Regional Innovation Center for Electrical Engineering (RICE).

Competing with around 300 other R&D proposals, the EEIC was selected to receive Czech government funding for its new project. Spanning almost four years, the work focuses on understanding the safe operating limits and potential issues surrounding the semiconductor power chips in digital circuit breakers to optimize their performance. Today’s Hybrid and Solid-State Circuit Breakers (HCBs and SSCBs) rely on chips with unproven performance and reliability in the face of short-duration, high-current events.

As one of only eight projects selected for government funding, the EEIC’s new program was awarded a $1.8 million grant from the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic (TAČR). Eaton’s total budget is $1.2 million, matching $480,000 of government funding with its own investment of $710,000. RICE will receive a further $590,000.

Pavel Cejnar from Eaton’s Power Electronics Center of Excellence comments: “We’re thrilled to have won government backing to pursue this essential project. To meet growing energy demands and tougher emissions targets, the world is rightly moving towards renewables. Yet, power grids must adapt to harness these innately intermittent energy sources effectively. We’re proud to be playing a part in making that happen—helping to enable tomorrow’s smarter, safer and more resilient electrical grids”.

As a nexus for electrical, vehicle, hydraulic and aerospace innovation, the EEIC is committed to developing technologies that are safer, smarter and more sustainable. One of six Eaton innovation centers globally, the EEIC unites a diverse team of curious, cross-industry experts—pioneering new solutions to tomorrow’s most urgent energy challenges.

Planned to run from January 2019 to December 2022, the EEIC’s new project will harness RICE and Eaton’s world-class expertise in power electronics and power distribution. The team will perform simulations and 3D tomographic tests to assess the tolerances and behavior of semiconductor chips under adverse conditions. Short-duration, high-current events may cause a range of thermal and electric behaviors, including internal melting and bonding failures. Based on the results, the best-performing chips will then be incorporated into HCB and SSCB prototypes to validate the team’s predictions.

EEIC director, Engelbert Hetzmannseder, adds: “Developing safer, more reliable and more resilient circuit breakers is a small, but crucial part of building tomorrow’s energy grids. We’re proud to be actively developing new technologies and power management systems that will support grid operators in a greener future dominated by renewables, electric vehicles and affordable energy storage”.

Eaton’s products and solutions enable customers use less energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and do business more sustainably. Our contribution to this new R&D project will help improve quality of life and the environment for everyone.

About Eaton

Eaton is a power management company with 2017 sales of $20.4 billion. We provide energy-efficient solutions that help our customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power more efficiently, safely and sustainably. Eaton is dedicated to improving the quality of life and the environment through the use of power management technologies and services. Eaton has approximately 96,000 employees and sells products to customers in more than 175 countries. For more information, visit


Nathalie Lapoirie
Corporate Communications Manager, EMEA.
tel: +41 21 811 46 47