The self-healing composite is based on the use of a monomer and a catalyst. As a crack spreads, the healing agent is released, and flows through the crack and comes into contact with the catalyst, which initiates the polymerization process. This process bonds the crack closed.
Incorporating a self-healing composite in the exterior structure of systems built for space could greatly improve the reliability and lifetime of the structures, and mitigate damage caused by space dust and debris. It is estimated that more than 80% of crater damages (diameter < 1 mm) could self-heal with the proposed system.
Thermal shock tests illustrate the potential: two samples were subjected to 20 cycles of -196° C liquid nitrogen bath alternating with a 60°C oven. The standard sample did not make it past the first round. The self-healed composite material regained as much as 90 percent of its original strength.
In November, 2009, CSA awarded funding to MPB to continue this research under a contract entitled "Pioneering of Self-healing of Damage in Composites Caused by Space Debris." This project joins MPB (space, fiber optics self-healing), Concordia University (composites, self-healing) and McGill University (novel hypervelocity launcher) in developing innovative self-healing concepts mitigating the effects of debris impacts.
MPB hopes to demonstrate its self-healing composite on either a micro satellite or the International Space Station within the next 2 years.
US Patent Application No.: 60/829, 869 (October 17, 2006)