Researchers Unveil Technology Allowing a Plane to “Heal Itself” in Mid-Flight
In the United Kingdom, scientists are developing technology to equip machines with the power to heal themselves. British scientists are due to present self-healing aircraft wings to a Royal Society meeting in London this week.
A team of scientists from the University of Bristol has quietly developed the technology over the last few years. Now, the leader of this team says self-healing technology should hit consumer markets in the “very near future.” Examples cited included self-healing nail polish and self-repairing cracked phone screens.
The Independent described the technology:
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.
“We took inspiration from the human body,” said head of the team, Professor Wass.
“We’ve not evolved to withstand any damage – if we were like that we’d have a skin as thick as a rhinoceros – 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: let’s have something that can heal itself.”
Tests have determined that the hardened material is just as stable as the original, so planes will be able to heal themselves in mid-flight and be as functional as they were before being damaged.
It seems like this technology is being developed relatively quickly and is yet another technological advancement that will come to fruition in the next five years. It has the potential to completely change the world we live in.
Consumers will undoubtedly benefit from prolonged utility of things like cell phones and cars thanks to self-healing tech. Air travel will become ever safer. However, this new technology also raises questions regarding the rapid growth of autonomous machinery, computers and drones. Do we really want armed, autonomous drones flying around with the ability to repair themselves? What if the artificially intelligent machines decided to stop listening to us one day, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk has warned about? That’s a question that should be answered before these “what ifs” become reality.