NASA is seeking improvements to current spacesuit pressure garment bladders in several key areas, including increased microbial resistance, imparting self-healing capability, and decreasing the friction between the bladder and surrounding materials. To create these improvements, TRI Austin proposes developing a new polyurethane based coating for the Oxford-weave nylon currently used in legacy space suit pressure garment bladders. This new polyurethane will be developed in collaboration with experts at a local university, who have created FDA approved additives to make polyurethanes, as well as other polymers, persistently antimicrobial and resistant to forming biofilms. These new polyurethanes are expected to decrease or even eliminate the need for biocide use in next-gen space suit applications, without causing significant changes to the current production or processing methods. In addition, imparting self-healing properties and minimizing friction with surrounding materials will be investigated as these polyurethanes are formulated. TRI Austin will work with the current producer of pressure garment bladders to ensure the new polyurethane is a drop-in replacement for the legacy material. The new formulation will be iteratively developed until a polyurethane is created which satisfies or exceeds all of NASA’s desired requirements.
Potential NASA applications include new materials for pressure garment bladders for integration into the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) and used in a variety of space based missions including on the International Space Station (ISS), and in future missions to both the Moon and Mars. Additionally, this material could be used in other applications that require both flexibility and antimicrobial properties.
Applications could include use as persistent antimicrobial coatings and films, such as those used for marine diving, water containment, sewage treatment, CBRN protective suits, and creation of antimicrobial surfaces, at the industrial and consumer level. Finally, the new material may find use by the US Department of Defense, in flight suits and coatings for water containment systems.