Why Do Transformers Explode? To understand this question we need to understand just how fast a millisecond is, to put this into perspective 8 milliseconds, that is 1/125 of a second, is the standard camera shutter speed and a longer 60 milliseconds is how fast a hummingbird flaps its wing one time.
Why Do Transformers Explode?
Sixty milliseconds are really fast. But sometimes, it’s not fast enough. I am not talking about the giant robots you see in the movies, yes they explode too, but in this case I am talking about those big cylindrical boxes that you see attached to your electric poles.
Understanding just what they do and the basics of a power grid is kin to thinking of river that circles a water park. A power grid is a giant circuit, like the river that circles around the water park. The electricity flows from the power plant, out to its various customers, and then returns back to the power plant. It does this within its limitations, think along the lines that the electricity has to flow at a constant speed (this is what we call frequency) and at a constant depth (what we call voltage). We have simplified this picture as one single circuit for you to imagine, but in real life a power grid is actually made up of many interconnected circuits with back up. Many of these circuits are not at the same voltage. Think back to the water park with several different river rides, one for the kids shallow and one for the teens deep, and one for you and I somewhere in the middle. If you wanted to move in a raft from the shallow to deep you would need someway to do this and that is the job of the transformer.
But when flooded with too much electricity, the sudden surge can cause a transformer explosion. As transformers detect an energy spike, they’re programmed to turn off, but it can take up to 60 milliseconds for the shutdown. However fast those milliseconds may seem, they still may be too slow to stop the electrical overload. A surge can be from many sources, a car hitting a pole, lightening, even a squirrel can cause a sudden change in the flow of electricity.
Inside these big cylinders several gallons of mineral oil, the stuff you see at the drug store, and this oil keeps the circuits cool, but given too much electricity, the circuits still melt, failing in a glorious shower of sparks and sometimes setting the mineral oil aflame.
This failure is what results in a great a loud bang and sometimes sends metal shrapnel that was once a beautiful transformer everywhere.
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