Could you wear the same socks for 4 months? Read about the HI-SEAS Textile Research Below.

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Evaluating the performance of self-cleaning and antimicrobial textiles for use in long duration spaceflight missions

Hello, I am Dr. Yajaira Sierra-Sastre and a long duration mission to Mars will require innovative ways to reduce total mass/weight and waste impact, as well as provide crew safety. “Intravehicular activity clothing, for instance, accounts for almost 18% of the mass in a long duration space flight mission.  For a Mars mission, 9,000 kg of textile garments will be needed for a crew of six. The supplied garments, when disposed of, make up 12% of the total waste mass, making it the largest waste impact.”(Fratto, L. A. 2005)  NASA is seeking to incorporate new technologies within the life support system that will have a dramatic impact on the reduction of mass and waste, increase crew safety, and maintain systems reliability.

Yajaira testing Cupron gloves at the Mars Desert Research Station
Photo by Sian

Textile materials with self-cleaning and antimicrobial properties are desirable, given the limited resources required for laundry and the concern for astronaut’s health, microbial deterioration of materials (e.g., fabrics/surfaces discoloration, unpleasant odors), and interplanetary contamination.  It is hypothesized that the use of textiles and garments can be extended to periods of weeks or months by the use of antimicrobial textiles, which prevent or inhibit microbial growth on fabrics.

Advances in textile technology have guided the development of antimicrobial agents consisting of metal (e.g., silver), metal oxides (e.g., copper oxide), and quaternary ammonium compounds.  Some of these antimicrobial agents have been utilized in combating bacterial pathogens in a host of commercial products including wound dressings, medical devices, bed linens, paints, etc.  Although silver ions is one of the most widely used metal-based, antimicrobial agents in the market, copper oxide impregnated products (i.e., Cupron) are emerging as environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternatives.

Yajaira testing gloves
Photo by Sian

The primary objective of my study will be to estimate the length of time that Cupron antimicrobial textiles (i.e., towels, bed linens) and garments (i.e., socks, gloves, pre-market baselayer) can be used before they are deemed unacceptable for continued use by the HI-SEAS crew. The study will also investigate how microbial load on fabrics plays a role in determining the length of use, as well as people’s perception (e.g., hand feel, odor, comfort, moisture transport, appearance) of the textile items after extended use.