Friday, January 27, 2006

NEW SPACECRAFT SKIN 'HEALS' ITSELF

Amazing what a little chemical engineering and nano manufacturing can produce...
A material that could enable spacecraft to automatically "heal" punctures and leaks is being tested in simulated space conditions on Earth.

The self-healing spacecraft skin is being developed by Ian Bond and Richard Trask from the University of Bristol, UK, as part of a European Space Agency (ESA) project.

The researchers have taken inspiration from human skin, which heals a cut by exposing blood to air, which congeals to forms a protective scab. "The analogy is the vascular system of the human body," Bond told New Scientist. "The system needs to be completely autonomous."

The researchers came up with a similar idea for protecting spacecraft. They fabricated a composite laminate material containing hundreds of hollow glass filaments 60 microns (thousandths of a millimetre) wide, each with an inner chamber of 30 microns in diameter. Half of the filaments are filled with an epoxy polymer or resin and the other half filled with a chemical agent that reacts with the polymer to form a very strong and hard substance.

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