Scientists have developed a new material that can quickly heal itself and could be used in space to prevent too much damage when things like debris hit a space station.
The material, if hit with space debris, could heal itself and plug any holes within a matter of a few seconds, which could preserve a lot of precious oxygen.
Tests have proved that the new material could end up being extremely helpful for a number of different applications. Researchers were able to shoot a hole through the material, after which it healed in less than a second.
The material itself, a thiol-ene-trialkylborane resin formulation, is a reactive liquid, and it is sandwiched between two panels of a solid polymer material. Once a hole in the solid material is made, the liquid reacts with oxygen in the air to form a solid plug, essentially healing the hole. This could buy astronauts the time they need to permanently repair the hole without too much damage being done or too much oxygen being lost.
That's not to say that the International Space Station isn't already well protected. It is built with bumpers that essentially vaporize any debris before it can reach the walls of the space station. However, should the bumpers fail, a hole in the wall could be disastrous, unless there is another line of defense.
Of course, this material could be used on more than just space stations. It could also prove very helpful for things like military vehicles here on Earth. The article outlining the author's work appeared July 27 in the American Chemical Society journal Macro Letters.
Watch a video of the material in action.