There is no washing machine in space

28/10/2021
Socks from Co2 in space environment Copyright: © ITA

RWTH alumnus and astronaut Martin Maurer tests self-cleaning stockings from Upper Hand® and ITA on the ISS. The antiviral technology of the ViruShield research project (funded by EIT Health) prevents not only the transmission of dangerous viruses, but transmission of bacteria as well which cause unpleasant odours.ITA employees were able to demonstrate this together with the company Upper Hand (upperhand.de), a spin-off from ITA. 

 

Now the team is going one step further and testing the technology on stockings in space. Astronaut Martin Maurer, an RWTH Aachen alumnus, will take the Upper Hand socks to the ISS via SpaceX Dragon on Sunday for extensive testing. In an interview with MDR, Martin Maurer enthuses, "I have a new material with me that has been optimized on the surface to be antibacterial. Germs are killed on the surface there, and that's a really great project, especially in times of a pandemic." Watch the interview here (minute 06:20).
RWTH alumnus and co-founder of Upper Hand, Dr David Schmelzeisen summarises the experiment as follows, "Together with the FU Berlin and the ITA, we were able to show the disinfecting effect of our textiles against SARS-CoV-2 last year. On the ISS, we are now devoting ourselves to completely different human problems. There is no washing machine on the ISS. The ISS is a hermetically sealed metal box in space where several people live together. It's the ultimate testing ground for the new self-cleaning textiles."
The idea is to show that the technology can also solve everyday problems. For example, in the future, clothing items could be washed less frequently or household odours could be reduced with the new textiles. More information about the newly developed fabrics and products can be read in more detail online at upperhand.de. The project team is open to further applications of the technology and new cooperation partners. Here is a brief summary:
WHAT'S NEW
Our technology eliminates unpleasant bacteria from textiles and has three advantages:
More comfort: no odours can be caused by bacteria, you feel fresh at all times.
Better protection: Introduced bacteria and viruses are constantly inactivated.
Less CO2: 50% of the CO2 emissions of textiles occur during washing. Our technology cuts this percentage in half.
WHY IT'S RELEVANT
This could be relevant not only for future space missions and space travel, but also for us humans living together on Earth. Through the space experiment, we want to test the technology in one of the most critical environments and raise awareness on Earth. We have experience in this field: RWTH Aachen, FU Berlin and Upper Hand have developed textiles that can disinfect themselves in a project funded by EIT Health. We were able to demonstrate efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 and provide thousands of people with innovative masks during the pandemic. Now we've demonstrated efficacy against odour-causing bacteria in the lab and want to complement this with a long-term study in space.
HOW IT WORKS
The textile materials deactivate 99.9% of odour-causing bacteria by breaking down their membranes through the power of micromagnetics. The yarns are firmly bonded to an active ingredient called organo-silanes. They generate positive magnetic charge spikes on the fabric surface. These are strong enough to open the fragile membranes of the bacteria. Without the membrane, the bacteria are inactivated and can no longer reproduce. The ingredients are proven to be harmless to humans and the environment (unlike silver and copper, for example).

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David Schmelzeisen

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Martin Seidenberg © Copyright: ITA

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Martin Seidenberg

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