Life-Critical Electronics – How Safe is “Safe Enough”

Business, Lifestyle
Reading Time: 1 minute

By Doug Whyte, CEO Imagine Research and Technology Inc., Special for USADT

Mission-critical electronics are systems where lives are at stake – aircraft, self-driving vehicles, aerospace, the military, emergency rescue, medical electronics etc. These systems must not fail.

Aircraft safely log millions of air miles annually. Manufacturers have done an enormous amount of work to make equipment about as reliable as possible. But the FAA still recorded 209 crashes in 2017 – a plane crash every 1.75 days.

There are numerous causes.

  1. Operator error
  2. Bad weather
  3. External factors
  4. Mechanical failure
  5. Electronic failure

An aircraft is an extreme environment for electronics.

  • Vibration and flexing
  • Insertion wear
  • Temp extremes – subzero to extreme heat
  • Moisture – ice, water, humidity
  • Acids, fuels, oils, dust, dirt
  • Hazing and cracking of boards

And yet electronics controls almost the entire modern airplane. The Airbus A380 with over 800 passengers has more than 90,000 km of wiring and 48,000 electrical connections.

Electronics can fail in these extreme environments. 60% of electrical failures are random and intermittent. That’s meant adopting several workarounds to reduce failures, including triple redundant systems and regular maintenance schedules.

But equipment still randomly fails. The so-called “Time X” failure – randomly, unexpectedly the system fails. You do not want to be on an aircraft that is experiencing a time x failure.

Together with the University of Akron and Purdue we are working on a patented nanoelectronic technology that can help solve some of these underlying failure mechanisms.

We are calling on government agencies – the US Military, DARPA, NASA, the FAA, the US CPSC and others to study, field test, and adopt this nanotechnology.

At perhaps 1% of system cost, implementation can be cheap insurance.

People’s lives are at stake.

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