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A fuse comprises either a metal strip on a wire fuse element inside a small cross-section that are attached to circuit conductors. These units are typically mounted between a couple of electrical terminals and quite often the fuse is cased within a non-conducting and non-combustible housing. The fuse is arranged in series capable of carrying all the current passing throughout the protected circuit. The resistance of the element produces heat due to the current flow. The construction and the size of the element is empirically determined to make certain that the heat generated for a normal current does not cause the element to attain a high temperature. In instances where too high of a current flows, the element either melts directly or it rises to a higher temperature and melts a soldered joint inside the fuse which opens the circuit.

Whenever the metal conductor components, an electric arc is formed between un-melted ends of the fuse. The arc begins to grow until the needed voltage to be able to sustain the arc is in fact greater compared to the circuits available voltage. This is what actually leads to the current flow to become terminated. Where alternating current circuits are concerned, the current naturally reverses course on each cycle. This process really improves the speed of fuse interruption. Where current-limiting fuses are concerned, the voltage required to sustain the arc builds up fast enough to be able to really stop the fault current before the first peak of the AC waveform. This effect greatly limits damage to downstream protected devices.

Normally, the fuse element comprises aluminum, zinc, copper, alloys or silver that will provide stable and predictable characteristics. Ideally, the fuse would carry its rated current indefinitely and melt rapidly on a small excess. It is vital that the element must not become damaged by minor harmless surges of current, and must not oxidize or change its behavior following possible years of service.

The fuse elements could be shaped in order to increase the heating effect. In bigger fuses, the current can be divided among several metal strips, while a dual-element fuse might have metal strips which melt immediately upon a short-circuit. This kind of fuse can even comprise a low-melting solder joint that responds to long-term overload of low values than a short circuit. Fuse elements could be supported by steel or nichrome wires. This will make sure that no strain is placed on the element but a spring could be incorporated to increase the speed of parting the element fragments.

It is common for the fuse element to be surrounded by materials that are intended to speed the quenching of the arc. Non-conducting liquids, silica sand and air are some examples.

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