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Inventors of the Year 2016
Werner Hartmann has made one invention after another throughout his career. In particular, the range of his ideas is astonishing. They extend from vacuum switching technology for the energy sector to new methods for mining and the automotive and food industries. At Corporate Technology in Erlangen, Hartmann’s research focuses on new circuits for power superhighways, which are urgently needed for expansion of high-voltage grids.
In our new power supply landscape, there will be far more high-voltage cables whose individual sections frequently need to be connected or disconnected. In the event of a circuit failure in such a grid section, whole towns or industrial plants can suddenly be without electricity.
Vacuum switching technology has existed since the 1970s and is widely used in low- and medium-voltage applications; nearly all grid operators use this technology in 80 percent of cases. Hartmann has refined it for use in high-voltage applications. His new vacuum interrupter is currently undergoing trials in high-voltage grids at five locations.
Hartmann is especially interested in alloys of copper and of chromium from which the contact surfaces of the interrupters are made. He has also looked in depth at the insulation gas used in interrupters to prevent arcs when lightning strikes. Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) has been used to date but it is one of the most aggressive greenhouse gases and its use should therefore be discontinued in the future. Werner Hartmann is working on solutions in which air alone provides insulation.
A researcher needs experience, patience and creativity, and also the willingness to share his ideas with as many people as possible. At Siemens I was able to develop my abilities to the full, and I’ve never regretted declining offers from top international research institutions.