What do mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering have in common at Cornell University? A team of researchers have answered that question with their studies leading to a discovery which could equal sturdier surface treatments on structures for cars, airplanes and more. 

In the scientific journal, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team published findings that looked at cancellous bones as a potential answer for surface treatments for engineers to apply on items that could malfunction if cracked or broken.

Cancellous bone is found near joints and the vertebrae and has a spongy exterior with harder interior. The biomedical engineers at Cornell University say that the ingredients that make up these bones are what heals a break or crack in the bones. So, they 'bounce' back into position.

This is making engineers think they can design a similar kind of foam that would bounce back once it develops a crack. Chris Hernandez is an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineer at Cornell University. He said, "We used to think we had cancellous bone for the same reasons that use foams in engineering, to absorb energy or make the structure more lightweight. But it turns out that cancellous bone does something different. The way cancellous bone breaks actually makes it heal better." 

Another engineer graduate student working on the project, Jonathan Matheny, said, "In the future, this could help in the design of new materials that can take advantage of this ‘function after failure."

Could we be seeing self-repairing car and airplane parts in the future? The insurance companies would have something to say about that - we'd imagine.