Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

"Spacetex" project takes functional textiles into outer space

14.04.2014

On 28 May 2014, the German ESA astronaut Dr. Alexander Gerst will take off from the cosmodrome in Baikonur/Kazakhstan, bound for the International Space Station (ISS). During the six-month "Blue Dot" mission, Dr. Gerst will be responsible for almost 40 different experiments including the "Spacetex" project, the first clothing physiology experiments to be carried out in a weightless environment. It is hoped that the “Spacetex” project will shed new light on the interaction between body, clothing and climate.

Experiments in zero gravity help with the development of innovative textiles for extreme conditions on Earth


The International Space Station ISS orbits the Earth at a height of 400 kilometres and a speed of 28,000 km/hr.

©NASA


The "Spacetex" 2014 project team (l. to r.):Eleni Antoniadou(ESA),Dr.Beringer(Hohenstein Institute),Prof.Gunga(Charité),Claudia Philpot(DLR), Hans-Jürgen Hübner(Schoeller Textil AG), Dr.Gerst (ESA).

©Hohenstein

The "Spacetex" project and its aims

- Germany)Germany) are expecting unique results from the joint undertaking. It is hoped that the tests deliver essential information for developing new textile products for use in extreme climatic and physiological conditions on Earth.

Equally as important, the data obtained should help optimise astronauts' clothing for future space voyages and long-term missions such as the approximately three-year voyage to Mars that is planned for 2030.

The challenges of zero gravity

Project leader Dr. Jan Beringer of the Hohenstein Institute sees great potential for improving the comfort and other performance features of garments in space: "Among other things, the lack of gravity affects the way body heat and sweat are transported through clothing that is worn next to the skin. To ensure that the body's cooling mechanism is still properly maintained, textiles have to be specially adapted for use in space.” Industrial researcher Dr. Beringer, who is listed as the project’s Principal Investigator (PI), believes performance-based textile functions will be key in future developments. These include, for example, antimicrobial textile finishes to minimise the odour formation that occurs as sweat is broken down by bacteria.

Wearing tests by astronaut Dr. Alexander Gerst

At the end of February, Dr. Jan Beringer and Prof. Dr. Hanns-Christian Gunga of the Center of Space Medicine at the Charité in Berlin, who is also Principal Investigator (PI) in the project, attended Dr. Alexander Gerst's training for the project at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne. In preparation for his duties while in orbit, Dr.Gerst performed four intensive treadmill workouts on four separate days during his preflight training. During two of the training sessions, he wore functional underwear made
of special polyester. Dr. Gerst wore a conventional cotton set of underwear, consisting of a T-shirt and shorts, for the remaining two sessions. Using a questionnaire, the 37- year-old from Künzelsau assessed how well body heat and sweat were wicked away from his body by the clothing systems. Dr. Alexander Gerst will also give his subjective impressions immediately after the training sessions in space; this will provide the first important comparative data for the "Spacetex" project.

Space-proven for extreme situations on Earth

It is expected that the data from the Dr. Gerst experiments will aid in Prof. Dr. Hanns-Christian Gunga’s reserach. For years, Gunga has been studying the effects that weightlessness in space, or in extreme climatic conditions on Earth, has on the human body. "In zero gravity, the breakdown of muscle and bone tissue begins very quickly. To counteract that degeneration, working on special training equipment is extremely important for astronauts. During that process, the body gives off heat just as it does on Earth, and tries to cool itself down by releasing and evaporating sweat. However, due to the lack of gravity and therefore of a flow of heat (convection), neither the body heat nor the sweat are transported away onto clothing or into the environment as they are on Earth." Instead, the heat envelops the body almost like an aura. Especially if clothing is loose-fitting, sweat remains stubbornly on the skin. This means the cooling effect on the body is lost and the training imparts greater physiological strain than it does on Earth, even for very fit astronauts.

In addition to their potential use in space, space-proven textiles are also of great interest when developing textiles for extreme conditions here on Earth. For Hans-Jürgen Hübner, Schoeller Textil AG, this is an important reason why the textile manufacturer is involved in this industry-funded research project: "We will feed the findings from the "Spacetex" project into our product development and optimisation work. Future astronauts will benefit from this work. We’ll also make sure that people here on Earth who push the limits of their physical endurance or have to deliver peak performance in extreme conditions benefit as well. That includes, of course, athletes of all kinds but also firefighters, catastrophe relief workers and members of the armed forces."

Experiments using the Hohenstein skin model

Alongside the subjective wear tests, objective evaluations of moisture and heat management are another vital data source for PI Dr. Beringer. The functional and cotton textiles were subjected to an extensive series of tests on the Hohenstein skin model that simulates the thermoregulatory system of human skin. Various clothing physiology parameters such as water vapour resistance, which indicates breathability, and thermal insulation were measured in standardised climatic conditions and normal gravity. Because of the great weight of the measuring equipment, it is impossible to bring it on board the ISS.

In order to be able to take comparative measurements in micro-gravity, the Hohenstein Institute is developing a special version of the Hohenstein skin model that could possibly be expected to be used in 2016 on board an Airbus A300 during the parabolic flights. During these flights, the aircraft climbs steeply out of horizontal flight, reduces the thrust of the turbines and flies a parabola (ellipse) during which weightlessness is experienced for about 22 seconds. Altogether, such a flight offers about 35 minutes of weightlessness - alternating with normal and twice the normal gravitational force - for researchers to use during experiments.

Odour analysis and microbiological tests

After the astronaut testing in Cologne, the test textiles were packed in airtight containers and later tested at the Hohenstein Institute for odour formation and number of residual bacteria. So that similar tests can be carried out on the textiles after the training sessions in space, Dr. Alexander Gerst will return with them, again in air-tight packaging, in November 2014.

Little Tenax tubes will serve as the "odour trap". Special polymers will absorb and preserve the odour molecules so that they can be counted after the mission using the GC/MS (gas chromatography mass spectrometer). In microbiological tests, the Hohenstein scientists will again count the number of bacteria adhering to the textile and compare the figures. As with the wearing comfort tests, the findings for functional and cotton textiles in normal and micro-gravity will be compared.

Always up-to-date

The project partners provide regular updates on various milestones during the "Spacetex" project. As of 1 April 2014 interim results and more information are provided on a special website www.spacetex-project.de. Further information can be found at the following links for "Blue Dot" mission and astronaut Dr. Alexander Gerst.

Additional information:

"Blue Dot" mission
Biography of Dr. Alexander Gerst

Contact:
Hohenstein Institute
Dr. Jan Beringer
j.beringer@hohenstein.de
www.hohenstein.com

Schoeller Textil AG
Dagmar Signer
dagmar_signer@schoeller-textiles.com
www.schoeller-textiles.com

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.hohenstein.com
http://www.schoeller-textiles.com
http://www.spacetex-project.de

Andrea Höra | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Earth Textil astronauts clothing conditions cotton heat skin sweat textile textiles weightlessness

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Move over, Superman! NIST method sees through concrete to detect early-stage corrosion
27.04.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Control of molecular motion by metal-plated 3-D printed plastic pieces
27.04.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>