Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Self-Repairing Cars and Airplanes
A research group out of Bristol University has developed an amazing new technique that may revolutionize the aerospace and automotive industries by making it possible for planes, spacecraft and even cars to mend themselves automatically. It works like this: When a tiny crack or hole appears in the side of an airplane (from regular wear and tear), an epoxy resin stored in tiny embedded vessels is released. The resin "bleeds" out and fills the cracks then hardens, restoring structural integrity. The resin can be dyed so that the weak spots are easily seen by the safety crew once the plane reaches its destination. The technique was modeled after natural processes such as bruising and the bleeding and healing process that occurs when you cut yourself. Besides the obvious safety benefits, the new technology will make it possible to build much lighter airplanes, which in turn will reduce the amount of fuel needed to fly one. Products using the new technology should be on the market within three or four years and can be utilized in any industry that uses fibre-reinforced polymer composites. These lightweight, high-performance materials are becoming increasingly popular not only in aircraft but also in car, wind turbine and even spacecraft designs.