Protection of Electronic Circuits
From Overvoltages

by Ronald B. Standler, Ph.D.


This 434-page book was originally published by Wiley-Interscience in April 1989, with an international standard book number (ISBN) = 0-471-61121-2.   In late 2000, Wiley let this book go out-of-print.

In December 2002, Dover Publications republished this book in a paperback edition, with an international standard book number (ISBN) = 0-486-42552-5.

Table of Contents

Contents of this book
Who is the intended audience?
Still current?

Contents of this book

Transient overvoltages, also called surges, are a type of electrical overstress that is conducted on wires. Overvoltages can damage computers, modems, electronic equipment, and even electrical motors. Such surges are commonly caused by lighting or switching reactive loads. Surges are transient events: they typically have a duration of less than 0.001 seconds, never more than a few milliseconds. In the absence of protective devices that limit the voltage, the magnitude of the peak surge voltage is usually understood as at least twice the normal system voltage.

This book describes:
  1. various threats waveforms: A number of readers have found particularly useful the frequency spectra (pp. 104-107) of standard surge test waveforms that are specified only in the time domain.

  2. the properties of nonlinear surge-protective components (e.g., gas tubes, spark gaps, varistors, avalanche diodes, forward-biased diodes, thyristors, etc.), as well as how to connect these components to minimize effects of parasitic inductance. Low-pass filters, optical isolators, and isolation transformers are also mentioned.

  3. application of these surge-protective components to:
  4. validating protection measures, including laboratory techniques and safety in a high-voltage laboratory.
This book does not include discussion of the special problems of either: telephone circuits, three-phase ac power, shielding from transient electromagnetic fields, grounding techniques, or electrostatic discharge.

This book contains references to 260 different articles in archival technical journals, government reports, patents, books, and engineering standards. At numerous places in the book, there is a brief mention of the historical evolution of surge-protective technology or standard overstress test waveforms, so that the reader understands why certain practices were adopted.

There is also a seven-page glossary that has precise definitions of specialized terms used in surge protection technology, to make the book useful to a wider audience.

Who is the intended audience?

This book was written for electrical engineers who either: Information from both industrial, military, and consumer applications is given.

While a complete understanding of everything in the book requires an understanding of calculus, differential equations, and physics, most of the applications information should be useful to people with an education in neither electrical engineering nor physics, but who have an understanding of electronic circuits.

While this book was written for self-study, it has been used as a textbook for classes at University of Queensland (Australia), and Uppsala University (Sweden), among other universities.

When information in another place is required, the text refers to a chapter number, so one does not need to read the entire book in order to solve a practical problem. The chapter number is printed at the top of every other page, for convenience in finding information.


Dover's suggested retail price is US$ 26.95. This book can be purchased online directly from Dover Publications. The book can also be ordered through any bookstore.

When Wiley discontinued selling this book, Wiley's retail price was US$ 145. (Wiley's high price probably contributed to declining sales, as it was too expensive for students, and many engineers in industry are reluctant to pay so much for a book, even though that price was much less than the value of their time to discover what they could have quickly learned from reading this book.)

Still current?

The approach in this book is to work from fundamental principles and the physics of the situation, and to discuss explicitly general design strategies and the philosophy of protection. This presentation is still valid. There have been only a few really novel surge-protective components introduced since 1988 and the basic design strategies are still the same now as described in this book.

I finished writing this book in June 1988, when I was an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. Two years later, the simultaneous end of the cold war and a recession annihilated all financial support for my research programs. (The U.S. Army and a local electric utility had supported my research in the late 1980s at the rate of US$ 250,000/year. In June 1990, this rate went to zero and stayed at zero for the next five years, before I abandoned research in electrical engineering and switched careers to law.) The same dramatic change in funding for scientific and engineering research also affected my colleagues, so the rate of production of new engineering knowledge in the USA slowed dramatically in the 1990s, compared to the 1970-89 era. The costs of reunification of Germany during the 1990s diverted money there away from research in universities, affecting my colleagues in Germany. So, there have been surprisingly few new developments in the area of this book since 1990.

If I were to revise this book now, I would add:

Copyright and Permissions

On 14 May 2001, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., the original publisher of this book, assigned the copyright to me personally. Dover Publications has a license to reprint, duplicate, publish, distribute, and sell this book. Any requests for permission to reproduce one or more figures or to copy long quotations should be sent in writing to me at my address.

this document is at
first posted 13 Nov 2001,   this version 16 Jan 2008.

Go to my essay on the protection of small computer systems from surges and other power disturbances on the ac supply mains. That essay begins with a list of my brief credentials in protecting electronic circuits from overvoltages.

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