Preventing fires in electrical circuits

Electric arcs are the most frequent cause of electrical fires. Inventor Jean-Mary Martel invented a smart device for the detection of electric arcs in an electrical circuit.
Inventors of the Year 2018


When you develop something new, you invariably come across problems, and many solved problems eventually lead to a patent.
Jean-Mary Martel, Energy Management

Martel invented a device for the detection of electric arcs, which occur when there is a dangerous exceptional situation in an electrical circuit: When the contacts are separated, the current tries to continue flowing through the air. In the process, electric arcs are formed that are at least 6,000°C. Not even the best insulation material can withstand these kinds of temperatures. Electric arcs can occur when the cable insulation is damaged, cables are squashed, connectors are snapped off or when there are loose contact points in the electrical installation.


The first detector of electric arcs was realized by SII (Siemens Industry Inc). in Norcross, Georgia/USA, in 2008. An international team headed by Martel then developed the first mass-produced arc fault detection device (AFDD) for 230V grids in accordance with the IEC /standard. The smart AFDD recognizes arc faults in electric lines and also protects against overload and short circuits. In the event of critical values, the device breaks the circuit and thus prevents fires.


Siemens’ patented SIARC recognition technology is the technical basis of the arc fault detection device. The devices constantly measure the high-frequency (HF) noise of the current and voltage in terms of intensity, duration and the gaps between noise segments. An integrated microcontroller analyzes these signals and breaks the connected circuit in a fraction of a second if there are any anomalies. The detection devices are able to differentiate between dangerous arc faults and harmless discharges, such as those that occur when operating electric drills or vacuum cleaners.