Monday 22 September 2014

Spacesuit for Future Astronauts – Safe Pressurized Suit

The spacesuit for the future astronauts, a MIT `second skin’ suit is created from smart material which contracts to hug the skin, with safe pressurized suit which would only support the astronaut, giving them much freedom in moving around during their exploration in space and now for the astronauts the process has become a lot easier wherein instead of getting into a conventional bulky, gas pressurized suit, they can don a lightweight, stretchy suit which has been lined with muscle like coils.

Thereafter they could plug into the spacecraft’s power supply and trigger the coils to contract which would shrink wrap the suit around their body. This skin tight pressurized suit, not only supports the astronaut but also provides much freedom while moving around during their planetary expedition. While taking the suit off, all that the astronaut needs to do is to apply a fair amount of force to return the suit to its looser form.

Comfort of Movement during Space Exploration

MIT researchers are heading closer to engineering an active second skin spacesuit for the astronauts, in bringing about much comfort in movement while in space. A professor of aeronautics, astronautics and engineering systems at MIT, Dava Newman together with her colleagues have created an active compression garment which incorporates small spring like coils that tend to contract due to heat.

The coils which are made from a SMA – shape memory alloy is a type of material that remembers an engineered shape which, when deformed or bent, tends to spring back to the shape when heated. The coils are incorporated in a tourniquet type cuff and applied to a current to generate heat when at a certain temperature; the coils tend to contract to their remembered form, just as a fully coiled spring and tighten the cuff in the process.

While in subsequent test, the group also found that the pressure produced by the coils tallied with that which was required to fully support the astronaut while in space.

Form Fitting & Flexible

According to Newman, who had worked for the past few decades to design a form fitting and flexible spacesuit for the future astronauts, he states that with conventional space suite, one is in a balloon of gas which provides the necessary one-third of an atmosphere to keep them alive in the vacuum of space.

He further added that they wanted to achieve the same pressurization but through mechanical counter pressure, by applying the pressure directly to the skin, to avoid the gas pressure with the combination of passive elastic with active materials with the advantage of mobility as well as a very lightweight suit for planetary exploration. Bradley Holschuh conceived the coil design, a postdoc in Newman’s lab.

Tourniquet System on Battlefield

An array of coils to an elastic cuff, were rigged by the researcher, attached by each coil to a small thread that was linked to the cuff. Thereafter, they attached leads to the coils opposite ends, applying a voltage, generating heat and between 60 and 160 C the coils got contracted pulling the attached thread thus tightening the cuff. T

hese according to Holschuh were basically self-closing buckles. Once the suit was worn, the current can run through and the suit then shrink wraps up and get closed. Holschuh also added that this could be used as a tourniquet system when someone tends to be bleeding out on the battlefield and if the suit has sensors, it could tourniquet the person in the event of injury without the person having to worry about it.

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