ABB has announced a breakthrough in the ability to interrupt direct current, and has claimed to solve a "100-year-old electrical engineering puzzle."

After years of research, ABB has developed the world’s first circuit breaker for high voltage direct current (HVDC). It combines fast mechanics with power electronics, and will be capable of ‘interrupting’ power flows equivalent to the output of a large power station within 5 milliseconds- that is 30 times faster than the blink of a human eye.

The breakthrough removes a 100-year-old barrier to the development of DC transmission grids, which will enable the efficient integration and exchange of renewable energy. DC grids will also improve grid reliability and enhance the capability of existing AC (alternating current) networks. ABB is in discussions with power utilities to identify pilot projects for the new development.

The Hybrid HVDC breaker development has been a flagship research project for ABB, which invests over $1 billion annually in R&D activities.

ABB claims that HVDC technology is needed to facilitate the long distance transfer of power from hydropower plants, the integration of offshore wind power, the development of visionary solar projects, and the interconnection of different power networks.

Deployment of HVDC has led to an increasing number of point-to-point connections in different parts of the world. The logical next step is to connect the lines and optimize the network. ABB is already working on the construction of multi-terminal systems and the latest DC breaker innovation is a major step in the evolution of HVDC grids. In parallel to the new hybrid breaker development, ABB has an established HVDC grid simulation center developing solutions for future DC overlay grid operations.