While most of us are now more careful about keeping our homes and workplaces clean, cleanliness on board the International Space Station is imperative.
Antibacterial measures are of great importance as bacteria tend to accumulate in the constantly recycled air of the International Space Station.
Every Saturday in space is a “cleaning day” as surfaces are cleaned, astronauts vacuum and collect debris.
However, there is one place in the station where cleaning is prohibited. But don’t worry, it’s all for science!
From Matisse’s experienceOr, by applying microbial aerosols to the innovative surfaces of the International Space Station, five advanced materials are tested for success in preventing pathogenic microorganisms from settling and growing in microgravity.
Matisse also provided insight into how biofilms adhere to surfaces under microgravity conditions.
The experiment was sponsored by the French space agency CNES and designed in 2016. Three iterations of the experiment were used on the International Space Station.
The first was MatISS-1, and four sample containers were prepared for six months at three different locations in the European Columbus Laboratory Unit.
This provided the researchers with some basic data points: When brought back to Earth, the researchers labeled the sediments on each surface and used the control material to create a reference for the level and type of pollution.
MatISS-2 had four identical sample holders with three different types of materials installed in one location in Columbus. This study aims to better understand how pollution spreads over time to hydrophobic (water repellent) and control surfaces.
The upgraded Matiss-2.5 was prepared to study how contamination spreads – this time spatially – across hydrophobic surfaces using cartridge samples. This experiment took a year and samples were recently returned to Earth and are now being analyzed.
Samples are made from a variety of advanced materials such as self-assembling monolayers, green polymers, ceramic polymers and hydrophobic hybrid silica.
The smart material should prevent bacteria from sticking and growing in large areas, making it easy to clean and sanitize. Experiment hopes to find out which materials work best.
The European Space Agency says so “An understanding of the effectiveness and potential uses of these materials will be essential in the design of future spacecraft, especially those that carry parent humans into space.”
Certainly, long-range manned space missions will have to reduce biological pollution of the astronauts’ habitats.