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High-Power Connectors for Harsh Environments

May 2020

Radiall VanSystem designs custom high-power connectors and modular connector solutions that allow users to create harsh-environment connection combinations while optimizing space. High-power connectors are used in a variety of industries, including railway, energy, naval and industrial. These environments often require custom connectors that can reliably withstand intense vibration, mechanical shock, corrosion, extreme temperatures, dust, gas, pressure and even salinity.

Important Features of High-Power, Harsh-Environment Connectors

Radiall VanSystem offers several different types of high-power connectors, ranging from single-pole bayonet connectors and multi-pole power connectors to box junction and distribution boxes. These high-power connectors operate up to 1,500A and feature excellent performance in terms of high-power handling, high-voltage, EMI protection, mechanical shock and vibration resistance.

The following design features are important to consider when selecting high-power connectors for harsh environments: 

  • Electrical Contact Systems — A quality contact system is one of the most important features of any high-power connector. Radiall VanSystem’s contacts with multi-louver bands guarantee optimal performance in applications that experience high currents and potential mechanical shock.
  • Housing Materials Harsh-environment high-power connectors are most commonly made of metal, like corrosion- and water-resistant stainless steel. For outdoor environments, it’s especially important consider the type of metal being used in order to prevent corrosion. Stainless steel connectors generally provide the most effective protection against water, dust and corrosion.
  • Insulation Materials Insulation materials employed in high-power, harsh-environment connectors should have a high Comparative Tracking Index (CTI) value, which measures the electrical breakdown properties of insulating material.
  • Grommet Seals Grommet seals used in harsh-environment applications are often made of fire-resistant and halogen-free compounds, and those used in railway applications must be qualified according to EN 45545-2. Common options include fluoride rubber (<150°C), flame-retardant rubber (<200°C) and silicon rubber (<200°C).   
  • Coupling and Locking Mechanisms Connectors with bayonet coupling systems and locking levers provide enhanced connection security in harsh environments. Coupling mechanisms with polarization and/or color-coding features can also help ensure proper mating and secure connectivity.
  • Temperature Rating Depending on the application, connectors should have a working temperature range of at least -40°C to +125°C. Connectors rated for a wider range of operating temperatures (e.g., -60°C to +180°C) can better withstand the extreme temperatures that are common in applications such as energy, downhole drilling and automotive.

Before choosing a high-power connector, do your research to discover its long-term reliability and estimated lifespan. Knowing these things can help you choose a connector with lasting optimal performance. Different markets require different mechanical parameters, performance characteristics and standards compliance, and Radiall is here to help identify the best solution or develop a custom connector for your application.

Read more about high-power connectors in our article featured in Connector Supplier's Harsh Environment Connectivity e-book.