- Carbon composites are increasingly being used by major aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing because they offer greater flexibility and aerodynamic versatility than traditional aluminium sheeting. The peculiar difficulty with laminated polymer sheeting, according to RMIT’s Chun Wang, is that when cracking does occur, it often happens inside the sheeting and is difficult to visually detect.
- In response, engineers have come up with its own inbuilt repair kit. It works like this: micro-sized capsules of polymer are embedded throughout the carbon fibre sheeting so that when a crack develops, the embedded pellets directly around the fracture melt and flood the fissure with resin, effectively fusing the material back together.
- The idea is that if an aircraft is suspected of experiencing fatigue, a fusing agent like heat could be applied to the plane’s carbon composite body in order to activate the restoration. The team is now experimenting with a more advanced system that would ultimately allow the process to be automated, eliminating the need for human intervention.
The Melbourne engineer and his self-healing plane
4. 1. 15 by Alex Klokus