back to article Nanotubes offer self-mending aircraft wings, golf clubs

Aerospace boffins in America have come up with yet another use for carbon nanotubes - to build a self-healing layer into composite structures such as aircraft wings. Structural components made out of polymer composites are just great, as everyone knows. They can be lighter and tougher than metal alloys, allowing aircraft - or …


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  1. Albert Gonzalez
    Black Helicopters

    Unless the computers go haywire

    Just hack the computers and the plane will MELT, even in mid flight.

    Just another word for _soft_ landing.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Teeny pipes. Can they be blown?

    Can the golf clubs heal from around-the-tree? ...because, you know...

  3. Mike Hocker

    My Car Could Use This

    Be nice to have a self repairing car... leastways till it got cancer or its computer got infected...

  4. yeah, right.


    kid: Oh wow dad! Look, this plane has retractable wings!

    dad: I didn't realize this plane had those.

    attendant: We don't.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    2 inaccuracies.. not bad going.

    They are:

    1) Just like metal, however, composites can be subject to tiny surface cracks

    Not 'just like metal' at all, barely visible impact damage leading to internal de-lamination is a completely different type of damage to the sort of fatigue cracks you might find in metal. Self healing composites are designed to deal with the former.

    2) Aerospace boffins in America have come up with yet another use for carbon nanotubes - to build a self-healing layer into composite structures such as aircraft wings.

    No, they have not just invented the idea of putting nano tubes into a composite. In fact here's someone in the UK who's been doing it for a while:

    The unique selling point here is the electrical trickery, which if you read the quotes is what the Prof Mikhil Koratkar is talking about.

    [/rant] coat, hat, taxi

  6. Alex

    how embarrising for pilots...

    ...should they suffer from elec-tile dysfunction!

  7. Anonymous Coward

    But how many...

    But how many times could you use this before it's used up and you have to replace the wing, etc. anyway? Once a crack develops, I'd think the sensors wouldn't be able to heal, so you'd always have a "dead spot" that you couldn't monitor any more. And same goes for the repair--maybe you could repair it once, but then you couldn't monitor it or repair it a second time. Unless there's some amazing way planned to re-create the nanotubes.

  8. Norman Wanzer

    Life imitating Art?

    Sounds a little like a Structural Integrity Field. It can detect and correct a small anomaly in the wing structure. All it needs to do now is have a way to increase its strength and you would have perfect functional mimicry of the Star Trek device

  9. Barry
    Jobs Horns


    Someone should tell Steve Ballmer about this. It would be the last chair he would ever need!

  10. Ben
    Thumb Down

    dodgy application?

    Modulus (Youngs) , rhymes with

    Icarus ........see 1 . Down (?). probably .

    (Single) Rooster , plus "up" .

    "But it gets better"

    Ho yessss.....

    The Rensselaer guys think you should then be able to send a higher-energy current down the wires. This will cause the nanotubes to heat up, melting ingredients in the epoxy"

    "Gee this carbon fibre and mystery soup resin sure is good stuff......i just wish i wasn't so damn ....itchy"

    The physics is well known and "old school" , any light entering from the sides into the bean counters eyes must be blanked out to avoid refraction of the shareholders .

    This is a bit o' balsa , you can make a model outa that!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    great the killbots

    need this to make them self repairing after they kill their maintenance crew the aerial kinds of course.

  12. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    great technology

    This is a great bit of kit. Minature cracks and delamination in composites is a huge problem (the main cause of why its taken till now to build an all composite wing, when the technology has been around for years!).

    How this would work in principal is that inflight the crack is healed and then once on the ground the panel would be replaced with a new component. A certain number of flights may be allowable with the healed crack but it certainly is not a continual thing. You design for 100% strength, 70% is not going to cut it over lifecycle!

    Good stuff!

  13. Charles Manning

    Where's the control?

    This carbon nano-stuff isn't very clever. What happens if an airplane wing decides to "heal itself" into a golf club in mid flight?

  14. David S

    @Charles Manning

    Worse. What if your club "heals itself" into a plane wing just before that tricky dog-leg on the fifth?

  15. Tony


    "Thus far, even the best metallic aircraft haven't offered the ability to make structural repairs automatically in mid-air."

    Nor have the best paper, wood, plastic or any other aircraft. Even the one found at Roswell, New Mexico some years back...

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