Imagine if airplanes could miraculously heal cracks or holes in the skin during flight. Obviously, that would go a long way in boosting airline safety, not to mention the confidence of passengers. Interestingly enough, researchers in Britain are attempting to make this dream a reality using a technique that utilizes composite materials that "bleed" when damaged—creating a "scab" of sorts that mimics our own natural healing process.
This composite material is made of hollow fibers that are filled with an epoxy resin that will leak out if damaged. The researchers claim that this resin can return the structure to 80-90% of its original strength when dried. It is also colored so that ground crews have an easy visual on areas where repair is needed. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of this technology is confined to minor damage, so any major cracks could still send you plummeting towards the Earth. Still, it would be a tremendous improvement that could result in lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft down the road. And the best part is that we probably won't have to wait forever to see it implemented. Researchers believe that the self-healing technology could go commercial in as little as four years. [Press Release via Wired]