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Soon, spacesuit to keep astronauts healthy in space


WASHINGTON (PTI): Scientists are developing a future spacesuit that could monitor astronauts' health, predict fatigue onset and use body heat to power electronics.

By working with a model spacesuit, the collaborative team at Kansas State University in US is exploring how wearable medical sensors can be used in future space missions to keep astronauts healthy.

The project involves developing and testing bio-sensors that can monitor astronauts' vital data, such as breathing rate or muscle activity.

It also includes creating a specialised wireless network so that spacesuit bio-sensors can communicate with each other and with a space station.

Researchers will be using energy harvesting technology to power radios and bio-sensors while an astronaut is in a spacesuit.

The project also involves building hardware prototypes for bio-sensors and energy harvesting electronics and producing spin-off technologies, such as new radio technologies and devices that apply to home care.

"We have a lot to learn about human physiology and what happens to a person as they physically change in a reduced-gravity environment," Steven Warren, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, said.

The engineers are using 3D electromagnetic field simulators and a spacesuit model.

The suit replica is made of multiple layers of material, including metallised fabrics to model the layers in real suits that protect astronauts and keep them warm.

Batteries are too dangerous to place in a spacesuit's oxygen-rich environment, so the team is developing new energy harvesting methods to gather energy.

These methods use the temperature difference between body heat and the spacesuit's cooling garment to power radios and other electronics inside the spacesuit.

"This is a systems-level project where we bring together integrated circuit design, software design, biomedical sensors and the biology of people," William Kuhn, professor of electrical and computer engineering, said.

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