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Wonders of Physics


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SP N2007 P1 Q16 – Which events will cause the fuse to blow?

An electric cable contains three wires live, neutral and earth. The cable is correctly wired to a plug which contains a 3A fuse. The insulation becomes damaged and bare metal wires show.

Five possible events can occur.

  • A person touches the earth wire.
  • A person touches the neutral wire.
  • A person touches the live wire.
  • The live wire touches the neutral wire.
  • The live wire touches the earth wire.

How many of these five events cause the fuse in the plug to blow?

A   1          B   2        C   3         D   4

Solutions: Option B

Consider the five events:

  • A person touches the earth wire – As the person is at 0V, same as the earth wire, there will be no current flowing through the person. So current through the circuit will not be affected, which is lower than the 3A fuse rating. Fuse will not blow.
  • A person touches the neutral wire.-  As the person is at 0V, same as the neutral wire, there will be no current flowing through the person. So current through the circuit will not be affected, which is lower than the 3A fuse rating. Fuse will not blow.
  • A person touches the live wire. – The live wire is at high potential of 240 V. The person will get an electric shock. But a common misconception is that if a person gets an electric shock, the current flowing through him is very large, which is wrong. In fact, the current is very small, much smaller than the fuse rating. Assuming the average body resistance of the person is 100 000 ohms, and the potential difference in Singapore is 240 V, since I = V/R = 240/100 000 = 0.0024 A, which is lower than 3A fuse rating. Hence the fuse will not blow.
  • The live wire touches the neutral wire. – This will create a short circuit as a large current which exceeds the fuse rating will from the live (240 V) to the neutral wire (0V) as that path has very low resistance. The fuse will blow.
  • The live wire touches the earth wire. – This will create a short circuit as a large current which exceeds the fuse rating will from the live (240 V) to the earth wire (0V) as that path has very low resistance. The fuse will blow.