Self-healing technology one step closer after University of Bristol scientists produce aircraft wings which fix themselves.
11 June 2015
Research presented at a Royal Society meeting in London this week, is being billed as an important step in an emerging field.
Working with Professor Ian Bond and Dr Richard Trask from the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Professor Duncan Wass and his team have been quietly developing the technology for the past three years and have produced aircraft wings that can fix themselves after being damaged.
The team’s ingenious solution started “on the back of an envelope” but has since developed into useable technology. It involves adding tiny, hollow “microspheres” to the carbon material – so small that they look like a powder to the human eye – which break on impact, releasing a liquid healing agent.
The agent seeps into the cracks left by the damage before coming into contact with a catalyst, triggering a rapid chemical reaction which causes it to harden.
Professor Wass said he expected self-healing products to reach consumers in the “very near future”. His team specialises in modifying carbon fibre 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 research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s UK Catalysis Hub, a collaborative project between universities and industry.