Electronics: Circuits That Heal Themselves

The electronic gadgets so vital to vehicles in far-out space suffer from some far-out troubles. Cosmic radiation sickens their semiconductors. Vibrations and swift temperature changes cause fractures in all-important wires. Lubricants evaporate into the vacuum of space. But scientists are already working on some far-out cures. The latest: a tin-magnesium-aluminum alloy that can be made into wires that grow gap-bridging "whiskers" when broken and soon heal their own wounds.

When a wire containing a core of the new alloy snaps, whiskers sprout from both ends of the break. In a few days, the whiskers can bridge a gap one millimeter...

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