The ETH spin-off Distran has developed an ultrasound camera to help with the detection of gas leaks. The US space agency NASA is now deploying this technology to help identify the source of a leak on-board the International Space Station (ISS).



At the start of December, the aerospace company SpaceX sent a new cargo capsule to the ISS. Also on-board was a technological innovation from the Zurich-based start-up Distran, as an article published on reveals. Specifically, this was the Distran Ultra Pro, an ultrasound camera that can help to detect gas leaks.

The technology developed by Distran is designed to help identify the source of a leak on the ISS. On the space station, the atmosphere must be maintained at a constant pressure level that is comfortable for the astronauts on-board. Last fall, NASA identified a slight rise in the average cabin air leak rate – a sign of a potential leak. In August 2020, the astronauts began to search for the source of the leak, with the aim of subsequently repairing it.

Distran’s ultrasound camera can, according to information contained in the article, display the precise location of the leak and estimate the leak flow rate in real time. The technology is able to detect ultrasound waves produced by the flow of air through small holes, seams and cracks. The ultrasound camera can also be used to localize partially obstructed leaks that are not easily accessible in addition to hidden leaks. A further advantage of the Distran Ultra Pro is that the device is also able to detect leaks in noisy environments.

Distran was founded in 2013 as a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH). Up to now, the technology developed by the start-up has mostly been used to detect leaks in gas pipelines.

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