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Who Invented The Crash-Resistant Fuel Tank?


Because of how volatile petrol and natural gas are, we need to consider additional protections to ensure that the structural integrity of the tanks, silos and pipelines are protected at all costs.

This ranges from the use of a vacuum relief valve to automatically reduce pressure to more complex systems of sensors to check for blockages, contaminants and potential issues that may lead to disaster if left unchecked.

For powered vehicles, this is even more vital, as has been seen with cars such as the Ford Pinto and the fire concerns of the Tesla Model X, as well as the potentially fatal consequences of such an occurrence happening at high altitudes.

The solution is known as the self-sealing tank, which uses multiple rubber layers, one of which expands when it comes into contact with fuel and thus plugs the leak. The same principle is used for run-on-flat tyres that self-seal if there is a puncture.

It was an innovation that, like so many others relating to safety, came as a result of crashes that occurred during the course of the First World War and the era of The Red Baron.

In 1917, George J Murdock, an inventor from New York State, designed a fuel tank that could self-seal when facing heavy gunfire but had to wait until after the war to patent it for reasons of national security.

He would get his patent on 26th September 1918, almost two months before Armistice Day, and whilst its primary use was to protect military aircraft, most commonly planes made by the Glenn L. Martin Company, it did have other, record-breaking purposes.

Howard Hughes, a film producer and aviation pioneer, broke the world record for a round-the-world flight, circumnavigating the Earth in just 91 hours, beating the previous record by nearly four days.

One of the innovations that helped with this was a self-sealing fuel tank that used neoprene to ensure he stayed on course the entire time.