MM: Self-Healing Aircraft Parts

In this episode, self-healing aircraft parts and a drone designed to eat floating trash.

Self-Healing Aircraft Parts

Engineers say that advanced composite materials could provide the strength and toughness of conventional metals at a fraction of their weight, which could make a host of equipment and industries more efficient.

But what if those materials could also essentially heal themselves, even under the most extreme circumstances?

Prior studies demonstrated how composites could heal cracks in the material to the point that they were stronger after a fracture.

But those results were generated only under favorable conditions.

New research from the University of Birmingham in the U.K. and the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, however, showed for the first time that composites could be engineered to heal themselves in extremely cold temperatures.

The composite contains an embedded conductive element to defrost or heat the material, as well as tiny vessels to deliver the healing agent.

Tests showed that glass fiber-reinforced laminate was restored to more than 100 percent of its strength at minus-76 degrees Fahrenheit.

Researchers said that the technology could help avoid difficult -- and costly -- repairs of critical equipment, from offshore wind turbines to airborne aircraft to satellites orbiting the planet.


How could these advanced composites impact aerospace manufacturing or other industries? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Garbage-Gobbling Drone
The surface of the world’s oceans is strewn with floating plastic waste that enters the water along the shoreline, so South African entrepreneur Richard Hardiman decided to do something about it and created WasteShark. 

WasteShark is an aquatic drone designed to autonomously cruise harbors and gobble up garbage before it can drift out to sea. Manufactured by Hardiman’s Netherlands –based RainMarine, the drone looks like a small electric catamaran with a scoop mouth located between the pontoons. As WasteShark moves through the water, the scoop skims the surface, collecting trash and transferring it into an onboard hopper for removal. 

Plans call for the drone to also collect information on water quality, depth and weather conditions and then transmit that data to port authorities. Additionally, WasteShark’s software will allow it to learn about its environment, so it can tweak its routes for maximum efficiency. While just a prototype, in the long run, Hardiman hopes to develop a larger solar-powered version that can collect up to 1,102 lb of trash at a time.


Could a drone of this type help clean up our waterways? In what other wasys could autonomous drones help out? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

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