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An Amazing Self-Healing Material Could Repair Damaged Spacecraft Instantly

ISS-3

Image credit: This is just an artist’s impression, don’t worry. NikoNomad/Shutterstock.

After a micrometeoroid struck the International Space Station (ISS), the air inside the station started to go quickly out of the hole into the vacuum of space. However, just in a few seconds, before the station came into destruction, the hole sealed itself and ensured the entire safety of the ISS as well a its crew members.

Like this one, more future safety scenarios could be probable because of the new kind of material developed by the researchers from the University of Michigan and NASA and their research were made public in the journal ACS Macro Letters.

The totally new material, when being punctured, is able to “fix” itself and temporarily prevent air from rushing out. It is especially designed to apply for the use on a spacecraft, which can ensure astronauts to have time for fixing the hole in a proper way before things go worse.

Such self-healing material is basically a reactive liquid between two layers of a solid polymer. In the experiment, a rifle bullet was shot into the material, which exposed the liquid inside to air in the environment, thus making it to be solid.

According to Scott Zavada, team leader of the University of Michigan, just in the seconds when being contacted with the atmosphere, it would turn from a liquid to a solid. Taking the case of the ISS for example, it should be the escaping atmosphere of the station that has sealed the hole.

As Timothy Scott, team member from the University of Michigan, said, this material would not be applied as a structural component itself, instead it should be combined with other materials. The intention was actually meant to plug [the hole] as soon as possible.

This material could not be only used for the ISS, but it would be widely applied to other spacecraft, aircraft, and fuel tanks, even habitats on the Moon or Mars. As the fund-raiser for this project, NASA has been interested in it and look forward to that more work should be done so as to have more tests on its applications.

Another amazing feature of the material is that it is intended to work well even when it is thin. However the fact is, the thinner the better, because it would save on weight. This research revealed that the thickness of panels was one millimeter, but it could be manufactured on the order of tens to hundreds of microns thin.

For more information, you could go watch the following video of the material in action.

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