Washington: Scientists have developed a new material that can quickly repair itself and could save astronauts' lives in case debris penetrates a spacecraft.
The International Space Station, equipped with "bumpers" that vaporise debris before it can hit the station walls, is the most heavily-shielded spacecraft ever flown, according to NASA.
But should the bumpers fail, a wall breach would allow life-sustaining air to gush out of astronauts' living quarters.
In the journal ACS Macro Letters, researchers from the University of Michigan and NASA Langley Research Center, described that they wanted to develop a backup defense.
The researchers developed a new material that heals itself within seconds and could prevent structural penetration from being catastrophic.
The new kind of self-healing material was made by sandwiching a reactive liquid in between two layers of a solid polymer.
When researchers shot a bullet through it, the liquid quickly reacted with oxygen from the air to form a solid plug in under a second.
The researchers said the technology could also apply to other more earthly structures including automobiles.