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Smart Surfaces for Space Hygiene

7 Apr 2020, 09:06 UTC
Smart Surfaces for Space Hygiene
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PARIS (ESA PR) — While efforts continue to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus on Earth, a space-based experiment called Matiss has been investigating how ‘smart surfaces’ on the International Space Station could stop pathogens in their tracks.

The experiment examines the performance of five advanced materials in preventing illness-causing microorganisms from settling and growing in microgravity. Matiss (Microbial Aerosol Tethering on Innovative Surfaces in the international Space Station) is driven by the French space agency (CNES) and was commissioned in 2016 during ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet’s Proxima mission.

Thomas Pesquet on the International Space Station. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

Materials sent to the Space Station were selected for their ability to respond to a given stimulus by repelling microorganisms, preventing their growth, or creating their own biofilms to provide a protective shield. They included a mix of advanced technology, from self-assembly monolayers and green polymers, to ceramic polymers and water-repellent hybrid silica.

Understanding the effectiveness and potential use of these materials will be essential to the design of future spacecraft, but could also lead to development and greater use of antimicrobial surfaces on elevator buttons and door handles, in bars, on public transport and in other high-traffic ...

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