Airplane, heal thyself

Are self-healing airplanes the next big thing in GA?

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed technology by which airplanes can heal their own skins and engine parts can protect themselves from hazardous materials.

Scientists are working on a process where damage triggers the repair mechanism in epoxy-based materials. When a crack forms in the epoxy material, microcapsules containing chlorobenzene shear. The solvent disperses into the matrix, where it finds pockets of unreacted epoxy monomers. The solvent then carries the latent epoxy monomers into the crack, where polymerization takes place, restoring structural integrity.

In tests, self-healing composites recovered their original strength by 82%.

“Our new self-healing system is simple, very economical and potentially robust,” said Jeffrey Moore, professor of chemistry. “From an economics and simplicity standpoint, self-healing materials could become part of everyday life.”

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