ESA tests antimicrobial materials for spacesuit inner linings that do not require washing

They've been looking for suitable materials to use as the inside linings of future spacesuits in order to prevent microbial growth.
Mrigakshi Dixit
A suited crewmember steps off their rover to examine the lunar surface.
A suited crewmember steps off their rover to examine the lunar surface.


One of the most difficult challenges of lunar settlement is keeping the spacesuits clean for extended periods of time, especially the interiors, which are more prone to microbial growth. 

Given the dearth of flowing water on the Moon, washing them regularly would be impractical to maintain the suit's inner linings free of bacteria. 

Furthermore, these spacesuits will almost certainly be shared among other astronauts as needed. 

“Think about keeping your underwear clean; it’s an easy enough job on a daily basis, thanks to detergent, washing machines, and dryers. But in habitats on the Moon or beyond, washing spacesuit interiors on a consistent basis may well not be practical,” said Malgorzata Holynska, European Space Agency’s materials and processes engineer, in an official release

ESA has brought on board numerous specialized companies to especially work on this issue under a project named Planetary Exploration Textiles, or PExTex. 

They've been looking for suitable materials for future spacesuits' inside linings to prevent microbial growth and make them more robust for outside lunar operations. 

Anti-bacterial clothing 

The project is based on the technique called Biocidal Advanced Coating Technology for Reducing Microbial Activity (BACTeRMA) to keep the inner linings safe and healthy. 

The BACTeRMA employs chemical compounds known as secondary metabolites, which hone antibiotic qualities. These microbes-based substances allow them to protect themselves from other harmful bacteria and other environmental variables. 

Other antimicrobial materials, based on silver or copper, may lead to skin irritation. 

The BACTeRMA team collaborated with the Vienna Textile Lab, which houses a "unique bacteriographic collection." This data is utilized to create biocidal textile processing methods, including dyeing cloth with bacterial metabolites. 

The antibiotic materials were tested for durability by being subjected to radiation, moondust, and simulated human sweat.

As a result of this testing approach, the BACTeRMA partners obtained vital insights into the efficiency and compatibility of antimicrobial compounds on diverse textile materials.

This preliminary attempt will eventually lead to the design and development of futuristic spacesuits that allow astronauts to easily use them for longer durations without washing. 

Spacesuit material testing for outer activities 

When future explorers venture out of the Moon habitat, they will be exposed to the harsh lunar environment, which includes severe temperatures, fatal space radiation, and surface regolith.  

As per ESA, this extreme lunar environment “partially jammed the seals of Apollo spacesuits within just a few hours of exposure, while compromising their outermost layers.”

They've been testing materials for a spacesuit that could easily be used for over 2,500 hours in total on the ground. 

PExTex partner, the German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research (DITF), is conducting several testing of high-strength materials, such as Twaron, at several advanced facilities.

MedAustron, an Austrian test facility, subjected the materials to various lunar conditions, including ultra-high vacuum, highly charged particles, temperature change, and moondust. The fabrics were also exposed to nuclear accelerator radiation. 

Gernot Grömer, director of the Österreichisches Weltraum Forum, said: “The findings of PExTex and BACTeRMA lay the foundation for future developments in the areas of antimicrobial treatments and the integration of smart textile technologies. Additionally, these projects could have broader implications for the textile industry, by demonstrating the feasibility and importance of developing innovative textiles with specialized properties."

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board