A next generation skintight spacesuit will help mankind explore space. The MIT BioSuit, improving astronaut mobility by reducing mass compared to existing gas-pressurized models.
Photo-illustrations: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT
Dava Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT, and her team, have managed to come up with an engineered active compression garments that will include small, spring-like coils which will contract whenever it is exposed to heat.
Newman, who has spent more than 10 years designing a new type of flexible, form-fitting spacesuit, explains:
“With conventional spacesuits, you’re essentially in a balloon of gas that’s providing you with the necessary one-third of an atmosphere [of pressure] to keep you alive in the vacuum of space.”
“We want to achieve that same pressurization, but through mechanical counterpressure – applying the pressure directly to the skin, thus avoiding the gas pressure altogether. We combine passive elastics with active materials… Ultimately, the big advantage is mobility, and a very lightweight suit for planetary exploration.”
The coil design was conceived by Bradley Holschuh, a postdoc in Newman’s lab. Holschuh and Newman, along with graduate student Edward Obropta, detail the design in the journal IEEE/ASME: Transactions on Mechatronics.
Holschuh says the group’s designs and active materials may be used for other purposes, such as in athletic wear or military uniforms.
“You could use this as a tourniquet system if someone is bleeding out on the battlefield. If your suit happens to have sensors, it could tourniquet you in the event of injury without you even having to think about it.”
“An integrated suit is exciting to think about to enhance human performance. We’re trying to keep our astronauts alive, safe, and mobile, but these designs are not just for use in space.”