U.S. Army and Texas A&M researchers have developed a material that they say can “heal autonomously.”
The materials could be used for morphing drones and robotic platforms, according to aerospace engineer Dr. Frank Gardea, who is the principal investigator of the project for the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research laboratory.
“As the research matures, the epoxy material is expected to have the ability for massive reconfigurability and have embedded intelligence allowing it to autonomously adapt to its environment without any external control,” the Army explains on its website. “Currently, the stimulus this material responds to is temperature, which researchers first selected because of its ease of use during laboratory testing.”
Researchers have introduced light-responsiveness to the material, because it is easier to control and apply, according to Gardea.
The research, which is still in the discovery phase, is published in the peer-reviewed journal Advanced Functional Materials.
The Army is targeting this type of research as part of its Future Vertical Lift initiative, which aims to improve knowledge of material behaviors for “far-future” military technologies.
Army researchers, for example, are eyeing drones that can change shape in midflight. Experts from the Army’s Research Laboratory presented their work on a new tool to develop the small shape-shifting drones at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Aviation Forum and Exposition virtual event on June 16.
Army researchers and Texas A&M University published the findings of a two-year study in fluid-structure interaction. “Their research led to a tool, which will be able to rapidly optimize the structural configuration for Future Vertical Lift vehicles while properly accounting for the interaction between air and the structure,” explains the Army Research Laboratory, in a statement released earlier this year.
The U.S. military is heavily focused on the development of innovative materials. Researchers at the University of Buffalo and Army scientists, for example, have simulated mother of pearl, or the outer coating of pearls, to create a lightweight plastic described as 14 times stronger and eight times lighter than steel. In a statement released last year, the Army said that the material is “ideal for absorbing the impact of bullets and other projectiles.”
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