Although most of us are now more cautious about keeping our houses and workplaces clean, cleanliness is imperative on the International Space Station. Antibacterial measures are very important because bacteria tend to accumulate in the constantly circulating air inside the International Space Station. Every Saturday in space is a “clean day”, the surface is wiped dry, the astronauts vacuum and collect garbage.
But there is a place where cleaning is prohibited at the station. But don’t worry, it’s all for science!
The MatISS experiment or the microbial aerosol binding on the innovative surface of the International Space Station tested five advanced materials and how they effectively prevent pathogenic microorganisms from sinking and growing in microgravity. MatISS also provides insights into how biofilms attach to surfaces under microgravity conditions.
The experiment was sponsored by the French space agency CNES and conceived in 2016. Three iterations of the experiment have been used on the International Space Station.
The first one is MatISS-1, which installed four sample racks in three different positions of the European Columbus laboratory module and left it for six months. This provides the researchers with some benchmark data points, because when they return to Earth, the researchers characterize the sediment on each surface and use control materials to establish a reference for the level and type of pollutants.
MatISS-2 has four identical sample holders, containing three different types of materials, installed in a single location in Columbus. This study aims to better understand how pollutants diffuse between hydrophobic surfaces (hydrophobic surfaces) and control surfaces over time. The upgraded Matiss-2.5 can use patterned samples to study how contaminants diffuse on hydrophobic surfaces (this time in space). The experiment lasted for a year, and these samples were recently sent back to Earth and are currently undergoing analysis.
The samples are made of a variety of advanced materials, such as self-assembled monolayers, green polymers, ceramic polymers and hydrophobic hybrid silica. Smart materials should prevent bacteria from attaching and growing on large areas, and effectively make bacteria easier to clean and hygienic. The experiment hopes to find out which material works best.
ESA said: “Understanding the effectiveness and potential uses of these materials is critical to the design of future spacecraft, especially those that take the father of man out of space.”
Long-term human space missions must limit the biological pollution of astronauts’ habitats.
Read more about the MatISS experiment here.