An accurate electric current transducer is a key component of any power system instrumentation. To measure currents power stations and substations conventionally employ inductive type current transformers with core and windings. For high voltage applications, porcelain insulators and oil-impregnated materials have to be used to produce insulation between the primary bus and the secondary windings. The insulation structure has to be designed carefully to avoid electric field stresses, which could eventually cause insulation breakdown. The electric current path of the primary bus has to be designed properly to minimize the mechanical forces on the primary conductors for through faults. The reliability of conventional high-voltage current transformers have been questioned because of their violent destructive failures which caused fires and impact damage to adjacent apparatus in the switchyards, electric damage to relays, and power service disruptions.
With short circuit capabilities of power systems getting larger, and the voltage levels going higher the conventional current transformers becomes more and more bulky and costly also the saturation of the iron core under fault current and the low frequency response make it difficult to obtain accurate current signals under power system transient conditions. In addition to the concerns, with the computer control techniques and digital protection devices being introduced into power systems, the conventional current transformers have caused further difficulties, as they are likely to introduce electro-magnetic interference through the ground loop into the digital systems. This has required the use of an auxiliary current transformer or optical isolator to avoid such problems.
It appears that the newly emerged Magneto-optical current transformer technology provides a solution for many of the above mentioned problems. The MOCT measures the electric current by means of Faraday Effect, which was first observed by Michael Faraday 150 years ago. The Faraday Effect is the phenomenon that the orientation of polarized light rotates under the influence of the magnetic fields and the rotation angle is proportional to the strength of the magnetic field component in the direction of optical path.
The MOCT measures the rotation angle caused by the magnetic field and converts it into a signal of few volts proportional to the electric currant. It consist of a sensor head located near the current carrying conductor, an electronic signal processing unit and fiber optical cables linking to these two parts. The sensor head consist of only optical component such as fiber optical cables, lenses, polarizers, glass prisms, mirrors etc. the signal is brought down by fiber optical cables to the signal processing unit and there is no need to use the metallic wires to transfer the signal. Therefore the insulation structure of an MOCT is simpler than that of a conventional current transformer, and there is no risk of fire or explosion by the MOCT. In addition to the insulation benefits, a MOCT is able to provide high immunity to electromagnetic interferences, wider frequency response, large dynamic range and low outputs which are compatible with the inputs of analog to digital converters. They are ideal for the interference between power systems and computer systems. And there is a growing interest in using MOCTs to measure the electric currents.