First there were video phones and then along came self-driving cars. Now, it looks like another sci-fi cliché, is set to become a part of everyday life. Scientists at the University of Bristol in England have spent three years developing a self-healing material that could repair airplane wings mid-flight, fix cracks in bicycle frames and heal small fissures in wind turbines.

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The research team, led by professor Duncan Wass, worked with a group of aerospace engineers to find a way to prevent cracks from forming in the outer skin of airplanes. They took inspiration from the healing properties of human skin.

“We’ve not evolved to withstand any damage,” Waas explained in a statement. “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.”

Related: Scientists develop self-healing protective coating for concrete

The researchers combined hollow “microspheres” with carbon fibre, a typical material used in airplane manufacturing. When a crack forms, the healing agent contained in the microspheres seeps out. It reacts with a catalyst in the wings, and like blood, begins to clot and harden.

The material is only suitable for repairing tiny cracks, not large holes, but “micro-cracks can lead to catastrophic failures,” Wass said. Tests in which the team repeatedly broke and healed aircraft wings showed that the healed carbon fibre is as strong as the original undamaged material. The researchers estimate that self-healing technology could be used on airplanes within the next five to ten years.

Via Daily Mail

Airplane image via Libre Shot, bicycle image via Frank Steele , wind turbine image via Public Domain Images