MCB ‘Hidden Hero’ Enabling Energy Transition Built on 100-year Safety Legacy

ABB’s first-of-its-kind Miniature Circuit Breaker (MCB) reaches a milestone 100-year anniversary of protecting electrical circuits and evolves to meet the sustainability needs of the future. With nearly a quarter of all fires occurring in residential buildings, the MCB not only revolutionized the way we live by enabling safe homes, but brought electrical safety throughout society, from rail infrastructure through to factories, commercial buildings, and data centres.

MCBs detect electrical faults like short circuits and over-currents, disconnecting the circuit within 10 milliseconds, 10 times faster than the blink of an eye. It can then be quickly and easily reset without the need for it to be replaced. As we transition towards a net-zero future, it is essential to increase electrification and integrate more diversified, renewable energy sources. This means protection devices have even greater electrical loads to manage along with variations in power supply and demand. ABB provides electrical safety to everything from solar panels and heat pumps to electric vehicles and brings additional protection against faults like residual currents, surges, earth fault currents, or arc faults.

“Our future-focused portfolio centres on achieving energy efficiency and transparent, sustainable practices. We also focus on easy installation which is invaluable when facing skilled labour shortages. Through our compact, modular, and flexible designs, we’re enabling buildings to be retrofitted and to integrate renewable energy sources, quickly and safely. This plays a vital role in ensuring the safe development of sustainable, modern communities, cities, and urban landscapes of our future,” Aldo Sciacca, Head of Energy Distribution, ABB Electrification’s Smart Buildings Division, says.

Today’s protection devices make new and old buildings around the world safer, smarter, and more sustainable. Compact designs enable, retrofitting even in historical buildings where space is limited. The wooden structures within many of the world’s historically significant buildings such as the Kinderdijk Windmills in the Netherlands, and the Aachen Cathedral in Germany, are particularly vulnerable to electrical hazards, which can lead to fires. Electrical systems have been updated in these UNESCO World Heritage sites with the installation of compact protection devices like Arc Fault Detection Devices (AFDDs) that have an integrated Residual Current Circuit Breaker with Overcurrent protection (RCBO), protecting these cultural landmarks for centuries to come.


About the history

In 1918, ABB’s forerunner, Brown, Boveri & Cie (BBC), purchased Stotz Kontakt, an electrical supplies company based in Mannheim, Germany. The company’s founder, Hugo Stotz stayed on with BBC and, working with his chief engineer, Heinrich Schachtner, invented the first resettable Miniature Circuit Breaker, a device that was patented in November 1924.

By combining thermal and magnetic trips into a single, reusable unit, the MCB was patented in 1924, becoming capable of switching off high currents and becoming resettable, meaning devices didn’t have to be repeatedly replaced. Today, ABB has eight factories globally manufacturing MCBs with more than 100 million poles per year.


Uncompromising safety and comfort

Miniature Circuit Breakers (MCBs) ensure electrical safety in homes, offices and other buildings as well as for industrial applications by protecting electrical installations against overloads and short-circuits. Once a fault is detected, the MCB automatically switches off the electrical circuit to prevent damage to wires and to avoid the risk of fire. MCBs are equipped with two tripping mechanisms: the delayed thermal tripping mechanism for overload protection and the magnetic tripping mechanism for short circuit protection.

For 100 years, ABB has continued to innovate MCBs and expand its product line to meet the demands of various applications and markets. Their products are compliant with global product standards such as IEC, UL and CSA. This established and certified portfolio is designed to provide maximum safety for buildings, assets and infrastructure.


Key features

  • Compliant to worldwide product standards (IEC, UL, CSA)
  • Characteristics: B, C, D, K, Z
  • Configurations: 1P, 1P+N, 2P, 3P, 3P+N, 4P
  • Breaking capacities up to 25 kA
  • Rated currents up to 100 A.

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