Healing Deeper Flaws in Metal

Surface scratches are one thing, but what if materials could heal deeper flaws too? Research into self-healing metals, a completely different material, is also yielding promising results at an early stage. The idea is to create metals that can better cope with the repeated pressures of daily use, known to cause structural failures.

"We know now that these cyclic stresses, although they do not cause shape change, they cause tiny cracks in the microstructure of the metal," explains Prof Cem Tasan at MIT.

More commonly known as metal fatigue, it is one of the suspected causes behind the catastrophic engine failure that hit a Southwest Airlines flight in the US in April. The US National Transportation Safety Board has said it found six crack lines on the fan blade that broke apart in mid-flight. It broke a window, almost sucking a woman out of the plane. The woman died of her injuries.

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