IRISHMAN REVOLUTIONISES METAL DETECTION PROCESS
By our Science Reporter
A new metal-detecting system has been developed which is revolutionising security detection, prospecting and archaeology. Previous systems have depended on magnetism and have not responded well to non-ferrous metals. The new system responds to all metals and, strange as it may seem, it functions through using baked beans in tomato sauce.
An Irishman developed the detection system after discovering the principle, like many great discoveries, through accident. “I often prepare breakfast of baked beans on toast,” said Dublin man Diarmuid Breatnach. “I noticed when I tipped a tin of baked beans into the pan for heating, that some of them remained stuck inside the can, even after vigorous shaking. I began to wonder if there might not be an attraction of some sort between them and the metal.”
The idea kept going around in Breatnach’s head until he decided to test it out. “In a friend’s garage, we ran a series of tests and discovered that yes, indeed, baked beans in tomato sauce are attracted to metal. And we discovered that they worked with many different kinds of metals – steel, obviously, but also aluminium, copper, zinc, tin, silver and alloys like brass and bronze. We didn’t have any large enough surfaces of gold and platinum to test – they have to be several millimetres across to work – but we thought it would work for them too.”
The Dublin man then set about designing the machine that would employ this attraction for metal detection. Using his skills learned in a former trade of fitter-welder, he constructed the first prototype and took out a patent on it.
“I went to a small metal-ware company on the outskirts of Dublin where I knew a guy and made a deal with the owner. They produced a few models and then we went to security firms and some metal mining companies, the models worked great under test conditions and we got supply contracts.”
Now the factory, Schiessen Ltd, has expanded its workforce four hundred per cent and struggles to keep up with orders. In addition, baked bean in tomato sauce production has soared, with attendant expansion in the cultivation of haricot beans and tomatoes abroad.
What impact have these developments had on Breatnach’s life? “When I started, I was in default on my mortgage and the bank was about to seize my flat,” said the Dublin man. “Those days are gone and I’m comfortable now. But I never forget how it started and still eat beans on toast in the morning,” he says with a smile.