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Self-Healing ‘Magic Skin,’ A Condom for Aircraft

[ 1 ] 26 iulie 2012 |

By Mark Brown, Wired UK

NASA has awarded Cessna Aircraft Co. with a $1.9 million development contract for its self-healing “magic skin” condom for future aircraft.

The idea is to pad the entire airliner with energy-absorbing foam, then slide the giant conductive sheath along the plane’s body. Once on, the snug-fit casing would protect the vehicle from impact damage, lightning strikes, electromagnetic interference and temperature extremes.

magicskin 300x199 Self Healing ‘Magic Skin,’ A Condom for Aircraft

The film, named STAR-C2 (Smoothing, Thermal, Absorbing, Reflective, Conductive, Cosmetic), also would provide obvious evidence of damage once the plane lands. If the outer protecting has been compromised, engineers can inspect the primary plane structure for damages.

Like Stanford University’s cobweb-inspired netting, the magic skin would provide an active health monitoring system. Cessna notes in its N+3 study — an exhaustive, 400-plus page report (.pdf) about future aircraft innovations, including this skin — that “the technology could incorporate devices that include temperature sensors, humidity sensors, strain sensors, accelerometers and light or motion sensors.”

“This information could provide the data needed for maintenance and repair.” The ambitious claims also say the skin could repair itself, from punctures and tears, once it detects damages. How it aims to do this, Cessna has not yet said.

Don’t expect to see a magic skin wrapped around the next plane you fly on. STAR-C2 is part of NASA’s far-flung futurist research of tech we may not see until 2030 to 2035. NASA divided its $16.5 million budget for the program among four ideas after 18 months of intense review.

In addition to financing Cessna’s aerocondom, NASA awarded Boeing $8.8 million for Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research, or SUGAR, which is an experiment of different engines, fuel types and wing shapes for the future of electric and hybrid aircraft. MIT got $4.6 million for its “double bubble” re-think of plane layouts that fuses two aircraft bodies together. Northrop Grumman will receive $1.2 million to test jet wings that could lead to quieter, more fuel-efficient aircraft.

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Categorie:: English

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