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ABB pioneers breakthrough rail innovation

- By Charlotte Stubben

ABB has successfully developed a revolutionary traction transformer that uses power electronics to reduce its size and weight while increasing the energy efficiency of the train.

The new power electronic traction transformer (PETT) is based on an innovative, multilevel converter topology that uses IGBT (insulated gate bipolar transistor) power semiconductors and medium frequency transformers replacing the conventional transformer and inverter combination. The medium frequency transformer also reduces noise levels.

Opens up new opportunities for rail markets
“The innovative use of power semiconductors in a core component such as traction transformers opens up new opportunities for rail markets around the world, and should be extendable across a range of other applications,” said Markus Heimbach, head of the Transformers business, a part of ABB’s Power Products division.

“In addition to its weight and size advantages, the new power electronic traction transformer (PETT) helps improve efficiency and reduces noise levels,” he added.

A pilot PETT installation on trial
As part of a long-term partnership between SBB (Swiss Federal Railway) and ABB, a pilot PETT installation is currently under trial on a shunting locomotive for use on the 15 kV AC and 1.5 kV DC lines at Geneva main railway station.

The innovation is a breakthrough that achieves one of the rail industry’s priority objectives of reducing the weight of on-board components. The traction transformer, which is traditionally made of iron and copper is one of the heavy pieces of equipment on a train.

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