Sniffing overheating wires

Implant Sciences Corporation has been awarded a US Air Force contract to develop an instrument to detect ageing and/or defective electrical wiring in military and commercial aircraft.

The instrument, which is based upon the company’s explosives detection technology, will be designed to sense the vapours from overheated wire insulation long before the insulation starts to smoke.

The award covers the first phase in the contract and provides funding of approximately $100,000. Upon completion of the Phase I project, Implant Sciences has the potential to receive an additional $750,000 award.

Preliminary experiments have shown that gases emitted from overheated wires at temperatures as low as 50 degrees C can be identified by analysing the spectrum produced by a laser Ion Mobility Spectrometer (IMS) system that the company is developing for the explosives detection market.

The company believes that when this system is installed on-board an aircraft, it will be able to alert the pilot or maintenance personnel to a problem before it becomes an emergency.