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Suitable for space

November 4th, 2014 / By: / What's New?

New spacesuit design could replace bulky pressurized suits.

According to an article written for by Seshadri Ramkumar, professor at Texas Tech University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are a step closer to develop active “second-skin” space suits.

MIT professor of aeronautics Dava Newman and her collaborators have developed active, spring-like coils made from shape memory alloys (SMA) that can be used as compression garments and could be used in space suits to make a suit that is lighter in weight and one that would offer better freedom of movement.

The SMA-based skin-tight space suits overcome the major drawback in earlier versions of pressurized suits, because these materials contract when heated and recover back when cooled. The suits are not dependent on pressurized gas and can be activated with mechanical and electrical pulses. SMA coils contract when heated by plugging into a power supply in the spacecraft. By applying slight mechanical pressure, the compressed suits relax.

The SMA coil design was conceived by Bradley Holschuh, a post-doctoral fellow in Newman’s lab at MIT. According to Holschuh, this design can be used in developing athletic garments and military uniforms. The research at MIT was funded by NASA and MIT.