Self-Protecting Aerospace Structures One Step Closer to Reality

Durham, NC - The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) awarded a five year, five million dollar grant to further research on microvascular autonomic composites to researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, UCLA, Duke University and Harvard Medical School.

More commonly known as “self-healing plastic,” this is an emerging field of science that incorporates automatic responses, like those found in biological entities, into material that are later used in the manufacturing of everything from airplanes to xylophones. This will ultimately lower the frequency and the need for replacement parts, as well as reduce costly maintenance procedures.

As in the case of self-healing plastics, this infant technology has already achieved the ability to reduce the threat of structural failure from microscopic cracks and fissures by automatically filling open space once a separation forms. This has strong similarity to how the human body automatically seals a cut or puncture.

UIUC's Beckman Institute will build upon their self healing accomplishments and coordinate with researchers from UCLA, Duke University and Harvard Medical School, in this Multi-disciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI).

Duke University mechanical engineering Professor Adrian Bejan is a member of the 3-man coordinating committee, and the leader of one of the project’s four research themes. The Duke portion of the grant is $877,792 for 5 years.

The MURI program addresses large multidisciplinary research topic areas representing exceptional opportunities for future Department of Defense (DoD) applications and technology options. The grants provide long-term support for research, graduate students, and laboratory instrumentation development that supports specific science and engineering research themes vital to national defense.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research is responsible for all fundamental research conducted by the Air Force Research Laboratory. AFOSR’s unquenchable quest is to expand the limits of our scientific understanding. In doing so, many of the technological breakthroughs enjoyed by millions today, such as lasers, GPS, and the computer mouse trace their scientific roots to research first funded by AFOSR. The forward thinking of AFOSR ensures the future protection of the United States, while providing high quality education for the next generation of American scientists and engineers.