Mersen test center: safety and reliability for electrical energy – Controls Tests Measurements

Mersen, the specialist in electrical protection, operates a test center at its site in Saint bonnet de Mure, near Lyon. The company’s highly qualified experts carry out more than 10,000 tests per year to verify the performance and reliability of numerous products such as fuses. Mersen, a world expert in electrical specialties and advanced materials for high-tech industry, set up a test laboratory on its Saint Bonnet de Mure site exactly 40 years ago. The complex, covering an area of ​​1600 square meters over 4 levels, with gates over five meters high, houses the electrical engineering specialist’s extensive test and research facilities.

A wide range of tests in the field of electrical safety

The laboratory is divided into two areas », explains Ludovic Derouen, head of high power testing. ” A first high power test laboratory for high short circuits and a second for low voltage, environmental and mechanical tests. Each year, on 50 test benches, employees carry out more than 10,000 electrical, dielectric, mechanical and environmental tests. Mainly on fuses and fuse holders, such as those protecting semiconductors, cables or motors. ” We also test all of Mersen’s product lines, such as laminated bus bars, surge protection devices (SPDs), power capacitors and certain products manufactured by Mersen for rail. “, adds Ludovic Derouen. ” We also regularly assist external customers in their developments. “. For example in the aerospace industry, Mersen is testing cables for future electric aircraft. ” Another topical example, for electric vehicles, we are testing pyrotechnic fuses that isolate the battery packs in the event of faults or crashes “.

Voltages up to 43 kilovolts

The high-power test laboratory characterizes the breaking capacity, the resistance to transient currents of fuses, as well as short-circuits with very high current gradient (di/dt), all in alternating current (AC) and in current continuous (DC). These high-voltage tests involve the use of high-performance equipment such as fiber optic measurement interfaces and high acquisition frequencies. The space dedicated to power is equipped with five test platforms, which generate a wide range of currents and voltages in both direct current and alternating current. One of these platforms is directly connected to the 20kV (3 MVA) electrical distribution network; two others are powered by capacitor banks (high di/dt and 30 MW), the last two by internal generators (20 MVA and 400 MVA). The most powerful platform can generate voltages up to 43 kV and peak currents up to 700 kA.

Specific test bench for EV products and semiconductor projections

The Laboratory therefore has two banks of capacitors. One specifically dedicated to very low inductance electric vehicle applications. It is associated with a climatic chamber to carry out tests at nominal voltage and current in difficult conditions (-40°C to 150°C). The second is dedicated to the ultra-fast protections necessary for the protection of semiconductors. It supplies up to 4 kV – 320 kA with a maximum di/dt of around 5 kA/µs. In addition to the usual low voltage tests, based on AC/DC power supplies and cycling equipment, the environmental and low voltage test laboratory is equipped with seven climatic chambers.

They are used to test components in extreme conditions (-40 to +200°C / 0 and 99% humidity) and can be associated with cycled power supplies. ” In salt spray tests, we examine, for example, the behavior of fuses in air with a high salt content, to simulate coastal areas », explains Ludovic Derouen. ” This equipment in accelerated cycling configuration allows us to simulate the aging of products in critical situations “, adds the expert.

Independent and impartial

All the technicians working in Saint Bonnet de Mure are very experienced. The laboratory director, Franck Sarrus, is also responsible for Research & Development at Mersen in Europe. Does this mean that the center is part of the R&D department? ” Yes and no », replies Ludovic Derouen with a smile. Of course, the laboratory supports the R&D activity of the Mersen group, in a global context where test means are limited in this field. Quick and easy access to high-tech testing capabilities is therefore a very important factor and not to be underestimated for a company strongly focused on R&D like Mersen.

On the other hand, internal customers, including R&D, are treated with the same independence and impartiality as external customers, thus complying with the 17025 standard.” We test the components and report whether or not they achieve the required performance “says Ludovic. The test center’s external customers are now a minority; more than 90% of the laboratory’s capacities are currently used for internal requests. In the future, Mersen intends to offer more vacancies to the latter. “We are already ideally equipped for this next step, with all the capacities and means necessary to meet the specific needs of our customers”.

Global coverage

Currently, Mersen Electrical Power operates three main electrical test centers around the world. In addition to Saint Bonnet de Mure, there is a laboratory in Newburryport (USA) and another in Terrassa (Spain). ” NOTWe work in close collaboration with our American colleagues in Massachusetts, particularly on UL tests“, explains Ludovic Derouen: “Thehe American and French test centers are also complementary. Both are capable of DC and AC operation but at different current and voltage levels to meet our product needs. “.

Laboratory accreditations

The Saint Bonnet de Mure test center is accredited by COFRAC, which ensures compliance with the ISO-17025 standard. Accreditation to the American UL standard is planned for 2022 – 2023. “In addition to the European, Chinese and Indian markets, we are also testing products in France intended for the American market”. Regarding potential future developments and to follow new market needs, such as energy storage, e-mobility markets and the future DC network, the laboratory is constantly investing in new dedicated equipment, as well as in the training of its technicians.

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Mersen test center: safety and reliability for electrical energy – Controls Tests Measurements

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