The same material that makes golf balls tough may soon make bullet holes vanish in "self-healing" aircraft fuel tanks, say U.S. Navy researchers.
Recently, U.S. scientists discovered that a commercially sold polymer - used to coat bowling pins, helmets, and golf balls - displays a curious property when shot at: it can immediately "pave over" the bullet holes.
Now, a team led by Christopher Coughlin, a materials engineer at the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Md., is trying to understand why the polymer self-heals. He hopes one day it can be used to help aircraft fuel tanks recover quickly from enemy fire.
"If you're 500 miles from your naval base - which could be an aircraft carrier in the ocean - you have to be worried. Are you going to have enough fuel to make it back?" Coughlin asks.