Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
IMMERSION DETECTION CIRCUIT INTERRUPTER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/1992/002064
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A sensing conductor (62) and a detection circuit (59, 60, 61, 63) cause a low resistance shorting of an appliance circuit (57, 58) in response to immersion in water or other electrically conductive liquid, and an interrupter device (4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 27), preferably located in the plug (12-65) of the cord set, reacts to overcurrent by opening both sides of the line (2, 3, 16, 17). The sensing conductor (62) must be strategically placed, within the appliance housing (56), to pass in proximity to liquid access points and the current carrying parts of the appliance (within 56). The detection circuit (59, 60, 61, 63), may be within the appliance (within 56) or in the plug (12-65), with the sensing conductor (62) extended to the appliance (that within 56) as a third conductor in the line cord (15). When a small current passes between the sensing conductor (62) and the ungrounded (51-53-3-17) and the grounded neutral (52-54-2-16) sides of the line or earth ground, current is shunted through the detection circuit (59, 60, of 59, 60, 61, 63) from the ungrounded (51-53-3-17) to the grounded neutral (52-54-2-16) conductor and away from the appliance circuit (57, 58 or that within 56). A fuse link (27) is opened in one side (51-53-3-17) of the line, which, in turn, releases normally open contacts (5, 10, 11), in the other side of the line (52-54-2-16), which open and remain open, so that both sides are permanently interrupted.

Inventors:
BODKIN LAWRENCE E (US)
Application Number:
PCT/US1991/005023
Publication Date:
February 06, 1992
Filing Date:
July 16, 1991
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
INNOVATIVE DESIGNER PRODUCTS I (US)
International Classes:
H02H5/08; (IPC1-7): H02H3/16
Foreign References:
US4589047A1986-05-13
US4464582A1984-08-07
US4079440A1978-03-14
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS : "*L3-
1. In a power circuit including at least two conductors for conducting electrical power from a line source having over current protection to an appliance circuit, within a housing, and having an electrical shock protection device, the improve¬ ment comprising automatic means connected to said conductors to initiate an overcurrent in response to an immersion of an appliance circuit in water or other conductive liquid.
2. The power circuit of Claim 1 wherein said power circuit includes interrupting means, in at least one of said conduc¬ tors responsive to said overcurrent to open said one conductor and interrupt said power circuit in the event of such immer¬ sion.
3. The power circuit of Claim 1 or 2 wherein said automatic means includes an immersion sensing conductor and an immer¬ sion detection circuit to activate said automatic means to provide said overcurrent by shorting means for establishing a low resistance short of said appliance circuit.
4. The power circuit of Claim 2 wherein said interrupting means includes at least one fuse link in said one conductor.
5. The power circuit of Claim 4 wherein said interrupting means includes normally open electrical contacts maintained closed to complete the power circuit in another of said at least two conductors by said fuse link through a mechanical coupling that electrically isolates said fuse link from said contacts, said contacts being released to open upon opening of said fuse link so that said at least two conductors are opened substantially simultaneously in response to an immersion of said appliance circuit.
6. The power circuit of Claim 4 or 5 wherein said fuse link is connected at one end to a spring loaded strip.
7. The power circuit of Claim 6 wherein said spring loaded strip is formed of conductive spring material.
8. The power circuit of any of Claims 57 wherein said con¬ tacts include a pair of spaced contacts closed by a third bridging contact which is carried by said spring loaded strip to form double break contacts.
9. The power circuit of any of Claims 58 wherein said pair of contacts is made of conductive spring material in the form of a pair of elongated strips.
10. The power circuit of Claim 9 wherein said pair of elongat¬ ed strips is curved into a space between said strips.
11. The power circuit of Claim 9 or 10 further including an insulating barrier, said pair of elongated strips being self biased toward each other and maintained in a spaced position by said insulating barrier located between said strips.
12. The power circuit of any of Claims 611 wherein said spring loaded strip is maintained in a position by said fuse link with said bridging contact in engagement to and between said pair of contacts until released by the opening of said fuse link.
13. The power circuit of any of Claim 612 in which said pair of contacts, closed by said bridging contact, applies a force to said bridging contact when released by said opening of said fuse link which force is in addition to a force applied to said bridging contact by said spring loaded strip that is released by the opening of said fuse link.
14. The power circuit of any of Claims 313 wherein said immersion sensing conductor and immersion detection circuit are located in said housing together with said appliance circuit.
15. The power circuit of any of Claims 213 further comprising a cord set including a line cord, and plug assembly connected to said line cord, said interrupting means being included in said plug assembly.
16. The power circuit of Claim 15 wherein said immersion sensing conductor and said immersion detection circuit are located in said plug assembly, together with said interrupting means and wherein said sensing conductor is extended from said plug assembly to said appliance circuit as an additional conductor in said line cord.
17. The power circuit of Claim 15 or 16 further comprising means to inhibit unwarranted activation of said automatic means by line transients generated by insertion of said plug into a receptacle outlet, said means to inhibit including polarization of said plug by forming its blades in unequal widths and unequal lengths with the narrower blade, for con¬ tacting an ungrounded conductor from said power source, being longer than the wider blade, for connecting to a grounded conductor from said power source, whereby insertion of said plug into a receptacle outlet will cause connection of said power circuit to an ungrounded conductor prior to connection to a grounded conductor.
18. The power circuit of Claim 3 wherein said shorting means includes a thyristor.
19. The power circuit of Claim 18 wherein said shorting means includes at least one rectifying means connected in series with said thyristor.
20. The power circuit of any of Claims 3, 18 and 19 wherein said shorting means includes a full wave rectifier bridge having a.c. input leads and d.c. output leads.
21. The power circuit of Claim 20 wherein said thyristor is connected across said d.c. output leads so as to pass the d.c. output of said rectifier bridge when triggered.
22. The power circuit of any of Claims 1821 wherein said sensing conductor is connected to a gate of said thyristor.
23. The power circuit of any of Claims 1822 wherein said shorting means includes means to inhibit triggering of said thyristor by conditions other than immersion of an appliance circuit.
24. The power circuit of Claim 23 wherein said means to inhib¬ it said triggering includes a capacitor connected in parallel with said thyristor.
Description:
IMMERSION DETECTION CIRCUIT INTERRUPTER

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a device that protects against electric shock when an appliance is accidentally immersed in water or other electrically conductive liquid.

BACKGROUND OF T I INVENTION

With the ever increasing use of electrical power in the home, there is a growing governmental and public awareness of electrical shock hazard and recognition of the need for improved means to reduce or eliminate the possibility of harmful electrical shock. This has resulted in a mandating of more sophisticated protection, requiring use of means considered most effective, but within the restricting frame¬ work of cost that affects the matter of practical implementa¬ tion.

If one can never presume to place a price on human life, the cost of protecting it should not be a factor, but it is one that is constantly at work in the marketplace. Maximum electrical shock protection should ideally be provided in all instances, but there is a demonstrated willingness to accept risk in the interest of economy and especially to forego safety modifications that might escalate the price of less expensive items. The cost of adding ground fault and line-to-line protection to hairdryers is more acceptable than when added to hair curlers, where the cost the protection may well exceed the basic cost of the appliance yet the curler can be as dangerous as the dryer.

These examples were selected because conditions of greatest electrical shock hazard have been generally established to exist wherever appliances are used around water, but most particularly in the bathroom where intensive use of electri¬ cal appliances is combined with extreme proximity to water under widely variable conditions, many of which include a ready opportunity for complete or partial immersion. It thus appeared that a simple yet effective device which needed only to interrupt power to the appliance in the event of its immersion could provide shock protection in a majority of hazardous instances and might be produced at lower cost than, for example, those described in my U.S. patents 3,997,818 and 4,707,759, which are designed to protect under a very broad spectrum of hazardous conditions.

While many immersion detection circuit interrupter devices have been designed and marketed, it is believed that the present invention more closely approaches the goal of provid¬ ing maximum effectiveness with minimum cost in order to achieve the most extensive use. The expense of electromag¬ netic switching devices is avoided, and where solid state devices are employed, their closed mode of failure is made to represent a positive fail-safe factor rather than a negative consideration in the matter of protective functioning. The present invention is particularly rapid in its protection due to a shorting technique which diverts current from the appli¬ ance circuit through a low resistance path as it activates the permanent interruption device. It uses very few elec¬ tronic components and has a simplified construction which is due in part to its single service design. While accidental immersion of an electrical appliance is included in the most hazardous of shock scenarios, such scenarios may be expected to be extremely rare in the course of normal human experience and the expense of making a protective device resettable would appear to be not only superfluous but counterproductive

in the attempt to minimize cost, unless a device is prone to the annoyance of unwarranted interruption and thus has a particular need to be made resettable.

Safeguards against unwarranted interruption are provided in the present invention and the fast acting fuse link in the interrupter mechanism typically has a current rating far below that of the standard overcurrent devices installed for the protection of branch circuits so that the shorting tech¬ nique does not result in an interruption of the branch serv¬ ice. However, the rarity of an immersion mishap should prevent such a branch interruption from being considered and aggravation and fuse links designed to permit use with appli¬ ances having greater current demands may become permissible.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, this invention is seen to comprise a power circuit having at least two conductors for conducting elec¬ trical power from a line source to an appliance circuit, within an appliance housing, and having an electrical shock protection device. The improvement in the device includes an automatic means connected to the conductors to initiate an overcurrent in response to an immersion of the appliance circuit in water or other conductive liquid. The power circuit also includes interrupting means, in at least one of the conductors, that is responsive to the overcurrent to open the one conductor and interrupt the power circuit in event of such immersion.

In other aspects, the automatic means is employed to initiate the overcurrent and includes a sensing conductor and immer¬ sion detection circuit. The automatic means provides the overcurrent by establishing a short or low resistance shunt¬ ing of the appliance circuit. The interrupting means in the

conductors has at least one fuse link in one of the at least two conductors.

Preferably, the interrupting means includes normally open electrical contacts which are held closed to complete the power circuit in another of the at least two conductors, by the fuse link through a mechanical coupling that electrically isolates the fuse link from the contacts. The contacts are released to open upon the opening of the fuse link so that at least two of the at least two conductors are opened substan¬ tially simultaneously in response to an immersion of the appliance circuit.

An object of this invention is to provide an especially rapid immersion detection and power interrupting shock protective response in a device that can be made an integral part of appliance design.

Another object is to provide an improved immersion detection circuit interrupter (IDCI) that can be produced at minimal cost in order to make such integral shock protection, in the event of immersion, more generally acceptable to the maker, seller and purchaser.

Still another object is to provide a circuit interrupter in a compact package, so that design factors will not be a reason¬ able argument against acceptance of its integral shock pro¬ tection by maker, seller or purchaser.

An additional object is to provide an immersion detection circuit interrupter that will function over a wide range of input voltages and frequencies so that the same type of device may enjoy wider usage.

A further object is to provide an immersion detection circuit interrupter device that is not reduced in protective function by the plug of the cord set being inserted into a receptacle outlet having its ungrounded and grounded neutral connections reversed.

A still further object is to provide an immersion detection circuit interrupter that is resistive to the effects of both physical abuse and transient electrical conditions that might cause and unwarranted power interruption.

One more object is to provide an immersion detection circuit interrupter with a mode of failure that leaves an appliance safe to handle, in the event of protective failure, and incapable of being used when no protection can be provided.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. ' is a schematic diagram showing the sensor conductor and tne immersion detection circuit located in the appliance housing as part of the appliance circuit and the interrupting device located in the plug assembly;

FIG. 2 .a a schematic diagram showing the immersion detection circuit located in the plug assembly with the interrupting device and the sensor conductor extended to the appliance circuit as a third conductor in the line cord;

FIG. 3 is an exploded view of the interrupter device con¬ tained in the plug assembly;

FIGS. 4 and 5 are opposite side views and FIG. 6 is an end view of the same interrupter device; and

FIGS. 7 and 8 are side and end views respectively, of the plug housing that contains the interrupter device.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring first to the schematic diagrams of FIGS. 1 and 2, it may be seen that power is supplied from line source 50 through ungrounded conductor 51 and grounded neutral conduc¬ tor 52 and their respective receptacle terminals 53 and 54 to respective plug blades 3 and 2. From ungrounded plug blade 3 to the appliance load 58 contained in appliance housing 56, the current path may be seen to include a fuse link 27, a spring support strip 4 to which the link is attached, conduc¬ tor 17 of line cord 15 and appliance switch 57. From ground¬ ed neutral plug blade 2 the current path to the appliance load 58 may be seen to include spring contact strips 10 and 11 connected by bridging contact 5 which is carried on the end of fuse support strip 4 but is electrically isolated from it by insulating sleeve 6. From spring contact strip 11 the path continues to appliance load 58 through conductor 16 of line cord 15.

It may also be seen that the detection circuit in both FIGS. 1 and 2 includes a full-wave rectifier 59 which has its a.c. input terminals connected across conductors 16 & 17 so as to be connected in parallel with appliance load 58 together with its controlling switch 57.

Thyristor 60, shown as a silicon controlled rectifier (SCR), is connected across the output terminals of full-wave recti¬ fier 59 so as to pass output current from the rectifier when triggered and placed in a forward conductive state. The full-wave rectifier 59 together with the thyristor 60 will thus pass current in either direction between ungrounded conductor 17 and grounded neutral conductor 16 to shunt or divert current away from appliance load 58 and its switch 57, to short circuit the power path and create an overcurrent

which opens the fuse link of the interrupter and releases the bridging contact to interrupt electrical connection to both the ungrounded and grounded neutral sides of the line.

Triggering of the thyristor 60, by Immersion, is accomplished through sensor conductor 62 which is connected to the gate of the thyristor, either directly or through optional current limiting resistance 63. When a small current is caused to pass between the sensor conductor and current carrying parts of the appliance or between the sensor conductor and earth ground, as by the connecting contact of water or other con¬ ductive medium, the thyristor 60 is triggered and creates the short circuit of the power circuit that activates the inter¬ rupter.

Capacitor 61 is connected in parallel with thyristor 60 as a primary means of inhibiting unwarranted triggering of the thyristor by line transients, supplying a small forward conditioning current. It is connected in a filter capacitor position but employs values far lower than those used for filtering purposes. .47 to 1.0 mfd is sufficient and values above 2.0 mfd are generally not desirable. Values as low as .1 perform efficiently once the plug is inserted in its receptacle and the capacitor becomes charged, but the larger values are needed to increase triggering resistance to the waveform spike often generated when the plug is inserted. An additional method of inhibiting unwarranted triggering, by switching spikes and the like, involves plug blade structure and will be discussed with reference to the mechanical draw¬ ings.

Selection of gate sensitivity is also of prime importance in the avoidance of unwarranted triggering of thyristor 60. The Igt should be in excess of 200 microamperes and preferably above 1 milliampere.

Where especially compact circuits are desired the thyristor is typically a .8 ampere SCR in a TO-92 package with an insensitive gate. The full-wave rectifier is rated at 1.5 amperes. While these should be considered sacrificial, the fuse action is fast and the rectifier may often survive. In circuits using components with higher surge ratings both components may survive, although the interrupter is not intended for reuse.

Referring now to FIG. 3, we see an exploded view of the interrupter as contained in a prototype plug and we can more readily see how the ring shaped bridging contact 5 is carried at the end of the fuse link supporting spring strip 4, while being electrically isolated from it by insulating sleeve 6. This spring strip, as well as spring strips 10 and 11 are preferably formed of tempered beryllium copper. The base of spring strip 4 is secured in post 7 which is mounted in the interrupter body 1 so that terminal screw 24 can be used to attach line cord conductor 17.

One end of the fuse link 27 is secured, preferably by solder¬ ing, to the spring strip 4, which not only connects fuse link 27 to line cord conductor 17 but applies a small amount of tension to the link once its other end has been properly attached to the base of plug blade 3 by using terminal screw 25 or by clamping in slot 26. Plug blade 3 is the narrower of the two blades 2 and 3 and is designed for contact with the ungrounded side of the line in a polarized receptacle.

Spring contact strip 10 has its support post 8 connected directly to plug blade 2 which is the wider one and intended for connection to the grounded neutral side of the line in a polarized receptacle outlet. Oppositely curving spring strip 11 is connected to conductor 16 of the line cord 15 through its support post 9 and terminal screw 23. Strips 10 and 11

connect the grounded neutral side of the line to the load when bridging contact 5 is held in position by spring strip 4 which is retained by fuse link 27.

Strips 10 and 11 have much less curve in the unstressed condition shown in FIG. 3, but are prestressed by curving them further and inserting them in interrupter body 1 where their free ends press against insulative spacing barrier 18 which separates them. While the prestressed degree of curva¬ ture, shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, could be provided in unstressed strips, prestressing against the barrier assures a develop¬ ment of high contact pressure with less movement of the bridging contact and also helps assure a positive positioning of the strips.

The nature of the interaction between the strips 10 and 11 is such that insertion of the bridging contact between them is resisted by a force that is initially great and subsequently diminished. Conversely, once the contact is fully inserted, the force of ejection exerted on the bridging contact is small and becomes subsequently greater as it is ejected. As contact 5 is inserted further, a point can be reached in which ejection force approaches zero. At or near this point, the fuse supporting strip can maintain the connecting posi¬ tion of the contact it carries without adverse additive effect on the tension of the fuse wire. Insertion of the bridging contact beyond this point can result in the develop¬ ment of force in a direction that tends to resist rather than assist in its removal. The spacing barrier 18 that separates the ends of the inwardly curving strips is also positioned to act as a stop for bridging contact 5 and prevent excessive insertion.

As a matter of convenience in assembly, final connection of

the fuse link 27 to plug blade 3 is not made until bridging contact 5 has been properly pressed into position between the oppositely and inwardly curving strips 10 and 11, thus bring¬ ing fuse link supporting strip 4 into a proper position. The bridging contact is then held against its positioning stop 18, fuse link 27 is lightly pulled to straighten it, and then it is fastened to blade 3, preferably by clamping in slot 26, while exerting only enough tension to eliminate a curvature in the link which could affect its rating.

When the fuse link 27 opens the ungrounded side of the line, its supporting spring strip 4 is released and urges the ejection of the bridging contact 5 from the space between curving strips 10 and 11 to open the other side of the line. As the bridging contact 5 is urged toward ejection, by the released link supporting spring strip 4, additional force of ejection is applied by the inwardly curving spring contact strips 10 and 11 in a rapidly increasing amount so that ejection can appear almost explosive in nature. Since the curving strips 10 and 11 and bridging contact 5 also comprise a double break contact arrangement, interruption of current is enhanced.

Close attention should be given to design of the interrupter body 1 to assure that the fuse link 27 is well contained in a shielding and insulating compartment that can also safely direct any escaping material, since the link will more often vaporize than separate and brief but strong arcing between elements of opposite polarity can often occur in the vaporiz¬ ing metal if short paths are made available.

The mechanical components 4, 5, 6, 10 and 11 which could apply strain to fuse link 27 have low inertial qualities that contribute to the interrupter's resistance to premature rup¬ ture of the fuse link that might be caused by dropping the plug on a hard surface or other such physical abuse.

FIGS. 4 and 5 show opposite side views and FIG. 6 shows an end view of the interrupter shown in FIG. 3.

FIG. 7 shows a side view and FIG. 8 shows an end view of plug housing or enclosure 12 with its removable back cover 13 that is made to extend beyond the housing to form a convenient plug-pulling finger grip, and also shows strain relief 14 for line cord 15.

In FIGS. 3, 4, 5 and 7 it can be noted that the plug blades are of the unequal width required for polarizing, but also that they are of unequal length, a simple modification that appears to be useful in avoiding unwarranted interruptions.

I have noted, while testing for resistance of the invention to unwarranted interruption, and using a sensitive SCR with¬ out the capacitor protection to achieve a "worst case M condi¬ tion, that breaking and remaking the power connection on the ungrounded side of the line while the grounded neutral side remained connected, causes triggering of the SCR with far greater frequency than when the arrangement is reversed. When making and breaking the power connection on the grounded side while the ungrounded side remained connected, triggering was very seldom. This effect is apparently due to a compo¬ nent conditioning effect resulting from the feeble currents created by an earth ground capacitance.

The longer blade 3 (just below the maximum allowable length), contacts the ungrounded side of the line and enables the power circuit to be energized with respect to the earth ground capacitance effect just prior to the contact of the shorter blade 2 (just above the minimum allowable length), with the grounded neutral side of the line which completes the power circuit. While the time differential is small it appears to be effective in most test instances.

Even if marginal in reliability due to uncontrollable varia¬ bles, such as speed of plug insertion, it is a plus factor that can enhance the other means and can be included at zero or near zero cost.




 
Previous Patent: SOLID-STATE LASER

Next Patent: PLUG-IN CIRCUIT BREAKER