Scientists making progress on self-repairing aircraft parts

Scientists making progress on self-repairing aircraft parts

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers working at Bristol University in England recently briefed the press on progress they have made on creating self-healing carbon fiber reinforced composite materials—they reported that they have successfully tested their new technology with airplane wings.

As they take-off, fly and land, aircraft sometimes develop that under the right circumstances can develop into larger cracks which can lead to material failure—part of modern maintenance is taking X-rays of critical parts to see if cracks have developed. In the future, that may not be necessary, the researchers suggest, because those cracked parts may be able to heal themselves.

The technology is based on the creation of very embedded in a material—they are made of one type of a healing agent. If a crack in the material develops, the sphere breaks, allowing the material inside to seep into the gap that has been created. When the comes into contact with the regular material, it reacts causing it to slowly harden. The end result is a repaired crack that is hopefully just as strong and durable as the original material. The team reports that they sought to replicate the way nature works when attempting to repair damage, whether bleeding or other types of breakage.

Currently, the is only able to repair extremely small cracks in certain kinds of materials, and it is likely to be expensive. If it does make its way to real aircraft, the team reports, it would likely only be in critical areas. They also note that while they were able to get cracks to heal themselves, there is still work to do—making sure a wing is as strong as the original, getting to heal during weather extremes, etc. They suspect it will be five to ten years before it is ready to go commercial, at least in . It is possible, they also note, that the same technology could be used as is, or modified for use in other less serious applications, such as nail polish. Down the road, there is speculation that it could even be used to repair cracked phone screens—in the event that engineers fail to come up with a new type of phone glass that will not crack in the first place.


Explore further

A self-healing protective coating for concrete

© 2015 Phys.org

Citation: Scientists making progress on self-repairing aircraft parts (2015, June 24) retrieved 20 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-06-scientists-self-repairing-aircraft.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
50 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jun 24, 2015
While they're at it they should add something that makes it apparent when the microspheres in an area have been used (e.g. that shows up under ultrasonic imaging during regular service intervals.) Otherwise the danger of microcracks leading to catastrophic failure would only be postponed - not eliminated.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more