Electronic spark tester
A safer alternative for spark testing
The current Spark Testing Apparatus (STA) only provide a pass/fail result, with a high degree of variability. Tests are expensive, time consuming, and testing can only be undertaken at a few specialised laboratories.
Electronic spark test (EST)
Unlike the STA, the Electronic Spark Tester (EST) does not require the creation of real sparks or explosions. Instead a spark simulation is applied as a dynamic load to the device under test (DUT) using a custom designed electronic loading device. The EST then makes a series of measurements of the DUTs voltage and current response to the spark simulation and interprets these measurements based on knowledge of spark physics, developed from experiments undertaken specifically for this project.
The EST measures the response of the DUT and then provides an indication of spark energy and compares this to a known safe limit called an ignitability metric. The information provided by the EST gives engineers and the developer the ability to characterise the response of the DUT and determine its level of safety or level of failure rather than a pass or fail as is currently the case with the STA.
By removing the requirement for a specialised laboratory, the EST will enable a new approach where Intrinsic Safety (IS) testing can be conducted by developers, test houses, manufacturing facilities and on site personnel to ensure the ongoing safety of devices. Furthermore the EST will give the ability for every IS power supply to be tested as they roll off the production line, rather than a single device.
The new Electronic Spark Tester (EST) provides a more reliable, informative and versatile test method, and an intrinsic safety approach that will deliver better risk management in explosion protection.
Mining3 has recently published a report detailing the project results and submitted a draft proposal to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for implementation into the IECEx 60079 standard. While continuing with this research, the team at Mining3 are providing a new design review and prototype testing service to assist manufacturers with meeting the requirements of the current standards.
In September 2015 CRCMining’s EST research team received an ACARP Research and Industry Excellence Award for the project.