Self-healing aircraft wings repair themselves using magic (and science)

British boffins on verge of major break- through in fields of aerospace and nail varnish

In the future, perhaps airlines won't need drones to look for damage on their planes, as the planes will fix themselves.

Scientists at the University of Bristol are close to creating a material that can "heal" itself.

The team has been developing the technology over the last three years and its leader, Professor Duncan Wass, told the Independent on Sunday that he expects self-healing products to reach consumers in the “very near future”.

The material is based on carbon fibre, which is very strong and very light and is increasingly used to build everything from aircraft wings to bicycles to chairs.

Wass and colleagues have found a way to add tiny, hollow “microspheres” to the carbon materia. These break on impact, releasing a liquid healing agent that, when it comes into contact with a catalyst, will harden rapidly, sealing any crack.

Not only could the technology be used on airplanes, it could also be used to fix broken mobile phone screens and could also make highly effective nail varnish. Hooray!

Professor Wass said that his team took inspiration from the human body.

“We've not evolved to withstand any damage - if we were, we'd have a skin as thick as a rhinoceros - and so, if we do get damaged, we bleed. But then it scabs and heals,” he said. Likewise, the self-healing carbon material is so far only able to deal with very minor, almost invisible, cracks.

Their research is due to by presented at a meeting of the Royal Society in London this week.