British researchers from the University of Bristol have invented a technology which makes it possible for aircraft wings to repair themselves during flight.
Professor Duncan Wass, the head of the project which was completed in three years, said that his team were inspired by the human body’s self-repairing mechanisms.
“We took inspiration from the human body,” Professor Wass said in an interview with The Independent.
“We've not evolved to withstand any damage, but if we do get damaged, we bleed, and it scabs and heals. We just put that same sort of function into a synthetic material.”
The chemical, dubbed as a “self-healing agent,” would be put in micro-holes in the composite material of wings and burst when damage occurs. The released liquid hardens when it comes to contact with a catalyst which would also be available in the composite structure of the wings. A dye added to the agent would also help engineers to identify the repaired cracks.
Self-healing technology, which was first introduced in 2001 with the invention of a plastic capable of mending itself, can be used in any industry where carbon fibre composite materials are deployed - ranging from bicycles helmets to wind turbines.
According to Prof Wass, self-healing technology will be available to end-users soon. Even the cosmetic giant L’oreal has recently contacted him.
“We are definitely getting to the stage where in the next five or 10 years we are going to see things like mobile phone screens that can heal themselves if they crack,” he said.