Eaton Aerospace is to shrink its arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) for use in fighters and adapt the technology to DC and three-phase AC electrical systems. Single-phase AC arc-fault circuit breakers for transport aircraft are already undergoing in-service evaluation, with initial certifications expected this year.

The US Office of Naval Research has awarded Eaton a $1.9 million contract for continued development of the AFCI technology. The 115VAC device is designed as a direct replacement for conventional circuit breakers in commercial aircraft. Under the new contract, the company will reduce the device size further and develop a 28V DC version, both for military applications.

Eaton will also develop an AFCI for three-phase electrical systems, used in commercial and military aircraft to power equipment such as fuel boost pumps.

This could result in an alternate means of compliance with airworthiness directives intended to eliminate the potential for fuel tank explosions that are caused by electrical arcing.

To build confidence in AFCI technology, Eaton is focusing initially on protecting non-essential circuits. Efforts are under way to certificate the devices in the USA as drop-in replacements for conventional circuit-breakers.

In an overseas certification effort, the company says, the devices have been installed in line with existing circuit breakers to add arc fault protection.

Source: Flight International