The same material that makes golf balls tough may soon make bullet holes vanish in “self-healing” aircraft fuel tanks, say US navy researchers.

Recently, US 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, Maryland, 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.

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