The Loh Down On Science

Airplane, Heal Thyself

Goo-embedded fabric helps airplanes help themselves.

Airplane, heal thyself?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

and with good news for paranoid flyers! Broken planes that can fix themselves while flying!

Well, soon, anyway.

Engineers at England's Bristol University have created an industrial fabric for lightweight airplanes. It's embedded with thousands of channels of resin-y goo.

When the fabric rips, the goo oozes out and then congeals, sealing the tear. The only evidence is a discolored area--from dyes in the resin--to mark the tear's location. It's like a black-and-blue mark on your skin.

The goal of the goo isn't to put airplane mechanics out of work. Rather it's a temporary fix for small-scale damage DURING flight. Full repairs would happen after landing.

So why bother? After all, unlike cars, planes don't usually get dinged by rocks and beer cans.

Well, Project Leader Ian Bond says the material opens up the possibility of the wide-scale use of fabric airplanes. THAT could cut fuel costs, carbon emissions, even ticket prices.

See, nervous flyers! That's the solution experts are suggesting! Cheap fabric airplanes! That's comforting. Right.


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