Scientists Presented Self-Healing Technology On Aircraft Wings, Promising To Deploy On Over The Plane

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In 2005, the wing of a seaplane crashed off Miami Beach, Florida, killing all 20 people on board. Investigators said the deadly crash happened shortly after takeoff from Miami Beach, which was apparently caused by the right wing breaking off during flight.

Everything starts from a tiny crack!

Fortunately, a team of British scientists has produced aircraft wings that can fix themselves after being damaged, suggesting that self-healing technology will soon become commonplace. The study started three years ago and drew inspiration from the way humans heal from a cut with blood that hardens into a scab.

self-healing-airplane-wingSpecializing in modifying carbon fiber composite materials, the strong-but-lightweight substances used increasingly widely in the manufacture of everything from commercial aircraft wings to sports racquets and high-performance bicycles, the team has been working with aerospace engineers to discover a way of preventing the tiny, almost undetectable cracks that form in an aircraft’s wings and fuselage. “We’re talking about tiny cracks – not a 1m-wide (3ft) hole, but micro-cracks that can lead to catastrophic failures. Composite materials are increasingly used in modern airlines, military aircraft and wind turbines. They’re very difficult to protect and repair. Our technology would enable you to maybe extend the maintenance schedule or use less material without compromising safety,” explained Chemistry Professor Duncan Wass.

The new technology has been proven to be just as strong after it had “healed”, raising the possibility of aircraft wings that can repair themselves “literally on the fly” if a bird strike takes place in mid-flight. The technology could also make airline checks far cheaper as a dye could be added to the healing agent causing any damage to an aircraft to stand out like a bruise. This would allow engineers to identify damaged areas quickly, and ensure that they do not miss anything while examining the plane. Depending on the outside conditions, the material can take anywhere between a couple of hours and a day to recover. “We’re definitely getting to the stage where in the next five or ten years we’re going to see things like mobile phone screens that can heal themselves if they crack.”

To follow Professor Duncan Wass on YouTube, click here.

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