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by Mike Zazaian September 29, 2006 - 9:50am, No Comments

A panel of the self-healing polymer

Researchers at the University of Alabama have developed a self-healing polymer that could prove very useful for aviation applications.

The new material consists of two layers, an inner epoxy covered over by an outer polymer. When the polymer is breached or damaged, a sugary epoxy seeps into the cracks and hardens when it comes into contact with the UV rays of the sun.

Additionally, circuitry that runs throughout the material allows it to pinpoint exactly where the damage has occurred. By running an electromagnetic antenna over the surface of the material, users are alerted by a loud beeping sound when a damaged area is found. Because the antenna induces a current in the un-damaged circuitry of the panel, the device doesn’t beep unless the circuitry is disrupted by a damaged area in the polymer.

While the usefulness of such a material is boundless, researchers are focusing specifically on applications in the aviation industry in the short-term. Said Jennifer English, who worked on the team developed the polymer:

We’re envisioning putting this onto an aircraft wing or door.

[via NewScientistTech]