Breaking Capacity of Circuit Breaker

Definition: Breaking capacity or interrupting capacity of the circuit breaker is a crucial parameter for selecting the breaker for the electrical network. The short circuit fault current of the electrical installation must be first known to select the suitable rating of the breaker for electrical installation.  At the time of a short circuit fault in the electrical network, a very high current of magnitude 30 KA to 50 KA, depending on the size of the transformers in the electrical network, flows in the circuit.

The electrical circuit interrupting device must be able to interrupt high short circuit current without damage. The technical term to show the fault interrupting the current capacity of the breaker is known as the breaking capacity of the circuit breaker.

Formula of Breaking Capacity

formula of breaking capacity

Why is Breaking Capacity Important?

When a fault occurs in the electrical network, high current flows through the breaker poles. After tripping the breaker at fault, if the breaker is again switched on under fault conditions, a large current flows through the breaker. If the breaker does not interrupt that fault current, then it may cause severe damage to the breaker. It also creates heavy stress on the electrical network.

For interrupting the fault current when the breaker is switched on under fault conditions, the other important parameter, termed making current capacity, must be checked.

It is crucial to understand why the making current of the breaker is more than the breaking current. Under normal conditions, the power system operates under balanced conditions, with all equipment carrying normal current. At the time of the fault, the power system gets unbalanced, and the system voltage and the current get disrupted. The fault current has sub-transients, transients, and DC components.

The making current of a circuit breaker is the peak value of the maximum current loop during sub-transient conditions, including DC components, when the breaker is closed under fault conditions. The circuit breaker should meet all the requirements of nominal breaker capacity, breaking capacity, and making capacity.  

Relationship between Making Current and breaking currents

Let symmetrical breaking current = I

Peak Value of symmetrical current = 1.414 I

The DC component current is almost equal to the peak value of the current during the sub-transient period.

Making current= 1.414 I *1.8 = 2.55 I

The making current of the breaker is 2.55 times the breaking current. If the system fault current is 35 KA, the breaking capacity of the breaker should be 40 KA for 3 Sec, and the making current capacity of the breaker shall be 100 KA

FAQs on Breaking Capacity

Q.1 What is the service breaking capacity, and what are its advantages on the reliability of the breaker?

The circuit breakers are generally not operated at their maximum breaking current (Icu). However, they are tested for maximum interrupting capacity to ensure their reliable operation. To determine the interrupting capacity, the IEC has introduced a rated short-circuit interrupting capacity (Ics), expressed as a percentage of Icu. This standard is denoted as IEC 60947-2. Specifically, the Ics are expressed as 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% of Icu.

The rated breaking capacity, also known as Icu or Icn, refers to the maximum fault current level a circuit breaker can safely interrupt without damage. These fault-currents are high and occur with very low probability. In most cases, the fault-currents are significantly lower than the Icu rating of the circuit breaker.

High currents of low probability, also known as (Ics), must be appropriately interrupted to ensure that the circuit breaker is immediately ready for reclosure after the faulty circuit has been repaired. This is important as it helps to ensure that the circuit breaker functions correctly and prevents any further damage or accidents.

Q.2 What is the breaking Capacity of a Circuit Breaker?

Breaking capacity, also known as interrupting rating, is the maximum amount of current that a fuse, circuit breaker, or other electrical apparatus can interrupt without causing damage or creating an unacceptable electric arc.

Q.3 Mention the formula used to calculate the breaking capacity of a circuit breaker.

The formula for the calculation of breaking capacity is as follows.


Q. 4 Calculate the breaker capacity to interrupt 400 A short circuit current at a rated service voltage of 33 kV in a 3-phase system.


Q.5 Breaking capacity of a circuit breaker is expressed in

The breaking capacity of a circuit breaker is expressed in RMS value.


In conclusion, the breaking or interrupting capacity of the circuit breaker is the maximum current that a circuit breaker can interrupt without being damaged. It is a short-time rating. If the fault current flows for a longer time, it can damage the breaker.

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