Verging on the science fiction is the term that is being used by the researcher involved in the project. A team comprising on British scientists has been able to produce aircraft wings that has the ability to fix themselves after getting damaged. This clearly suggests that the self healing technology is about to turn commonplace. Even though the research is still due to be presented at the Royal Society meeting in London sometime this well, is already being considered as a critical step highlighting an emerging field.
This field could lead to the development of self-healing nail polish or even the cure for a broken mobile phone screens. This self healing technology was quietly being developed by a team at the University of Bristol from the past 3 years. According to the leader of the team professor Duncan Wass, in the near future the self healing products will reach out to the customers.
His team is expert in the modification of the carbon fibre composite materials. These are strong yet lightweight substances that are widely being used in manufacturing almost everything from sports racquets to high-performance bicycles to commercial aircraft wings.
This team has been working on finding solution to percent the small undetectable cracks from forming on the aircraft fuselage and wings. The developed a solution wherein they will add small and empty microspheres in the carbon material, that will break on any kind of impact and release a liquid healing agent.
The agent will go through the cracks and trigger a fast chemical reaction when they come in contact with the catalyst and solidify. The main inspiration has been drawn from the human body wherein we get hurt, we bleed and scab is form before healing the wound out. It is the same function that will be performed by this agent.
Test has indicated that the self healing technology material is very strong even after the healing and thereby increasing the possibility of self repair by the aircraft wings. This technology can be used for making the airline safety checks very cheaper and allow the engineers to be able to locate the damaged area. The team is working on making the agent or the dye to be invisible to the makes eye but quite visible under the ultraviolet light.
No one wants to enter or see a spot on the wings of the craft creating doubts. They have indicated that the self healing technology material can take couple of hours to a day to show recovery sign and it will depend on the temperature. Heat will cause the healing process to speed up.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s UK Catalysis Hub has been funding this project which is symbol of collaboration between industry and universities. Even though the team has focused the project on making material that can be used in the aerospace space industry, it has much other application.
Such as carbon fibre passenger compartment in BMW cars, carbon fibre reinforced plastic fuselage in Airbus A 380, offshore wind turbines, Carbon fibre bicycle frames as well as making many sports equipments but having the same reasons.