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Hollow microfibres will seep liquid adhesive if a puncture occures - Coutesy of ESA
Spaceships are expensive and hard to repair - the ESA is working on programs to have spacecraft "heal" themselves

Researchers at the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol, as a part of the ESA's General Studies Programme, may have made a step in the right direction towards the possibility of a self-healing spacecraft.  The researchers apparently got the idea from how human skin heals itself:

When we cut ourselves we don't have to glue ourselves back together, instead we have a self-healing mechanism. Our blood hardens to form a protective seal for new skin to form underneath.
This was done by replacing a small percent of the fibres running through a resinous composite material with hollow fibres that contain adhesive materials.  One of the advantages of a self-healing spacecraft is that it is more likely that NASA could launch longer duration space missions.

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By Ackbar on 1/23/2006 2:52:12 AM , Rating: 3
The researchers apparently got the idea from how human skin heals itself.

Or maybe they got the idea from self-sealing tires... honestly though, people have been using this idea of a substance coming out to provide support/protection for a long time. I find it almost offensive that they claim the idea as new or innovative. All they found really is a new application of a long standing idea (albeit a very good application!).

RE: Duh!
By patentman on 1/23/2006 7:19:09 AM , Rating: 3

I agree with you. When I was an Examiner at the PTO a number of years ago I issued a patent on a self healing coating for fishing rods and fishing reels. A lot has been done with self healing coatings in the development new sporting goods and automobile parts etc.. That said, most of the coating I saw at that time were some kind of self healing polymer, such as a specialized acrylic. The "fibrous" system may indeed be a new twist on the technology.

But I agree, the idea itself is not new.

RE: Duh!
By mckrautski on 1/23/2006 3:05:50 PM , Rating: 2
The outgassing properties neeeded for a self-healing material to function in a vacuum may be quite a bit trickier than what can be used under atmospheric pressure...hence it may be quite a bit different than self healing polymers used here on good ol' earth.

RE: Duh!
By Alexvrb on 1/24/2006 12:59:12 AM , Rating: 2
It's still not anything like the title implies. It's not self-healing or self-repairing. It's self plugging at best. Not so terribly different from tire with some Slime in it.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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