Shrink-wrapping ‘second skin’ spacesuits come closer to reality

Washington: A new research has revealed about the future spacesuits that may be a lightweight stretchy garment lined with tiny muscle-like coils to contract and essentially shrink-wrap the garment around astronauts’ body in response to heat.

Unlike conventional bulky gas-pressurized suits, the future suit would not only support astronauts, but would give them much more freedom to move during planetary exploration and to take the suit off, they would only have to apply modest force, returning the suit to its looser form.

The researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology incorporated the coils in a tourniquet-like cuff, and applied a current to generate heat, which at a certain triggered temperature contracted to their “remembered” form, such as a fully coiled spring, tightening the cuff in the process.

In subsequent tests, the group found that the pressure produced by the coils equaled that required to fully support an astronaut in space.

Researcher Dava Newman said that with conventional spacesuits, astronauts are essentially in a balloon of gas that is providing you with the necessary one-third of an atmosphere [of pressure,] to keep you alive in the vacuum of space.
Newman continued that they want to achieve that same pressurization, but through mechanical counterpressure by applying the pressure directly to the skin, thus avoiding the gas pressure altogether.

Newman added that they combine passive elastics with active materials and that the big advantage is mobility and a very lightweight suit for planetary exploration.