Runway mat, heal thyself!

Among the questions we are about to answer are: Air Force jets land on mats? And those mats are made of metal? And they can be printed? And they can reconfigure themselves? The answers are yes, yes, yes, and yes. An Indiana company has landed a $1 million grant to develop 3D printing tech for a runway mat for the U.S. Air Force.

A Purdue University engineering professor named Pablo Zavattieri is working with the Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies, known as ITAMCO, to develop the 3D metal-printing tech. A mat is great for planes to land on because it keeps debris on the runway from getting in the way.

But that’s not even the crazy part. The crazy part is that the ITAMCO mats can change from one stable configuration to another one and back again. The tech uses a material called Phase Transforming Cellular Material. That means the mats have a longer life span because the runway mat “could potentially heal itself,” Zavattieri said.