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Free Content Morphing Compression Garments for Space Medicine and Extravehicular Activity Using Active Materials

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INTRODUCTION: Compression garments tend to be difficult to don/doff, due to their intentional function of squeezing the wearer. This is especially true for compression garments used for space medicine and for extravehicular activity (EVA). We present an innovative solution to this problem by integrating shape changing materials—NiTi shape memory alloy (SMA) coil actuators formed into modular, 3D-printed cartridges—into compression garments to produce garments capable of constricting on command.

METHODS: A parameterized, 2-spring analytic counterpressure model based on 12 garment and material inputs was developed to inform garment design. A methodology was developed for producing novel SMA cartridge systems to enable active compression garment construction. Five active compression sleeve prototypes were manufactured and tested: each sleeve was placed on a rigid cylindrical object and counterpressure was measured as a function of spatial location and time before, during, and after the application of a step voltage input.

RESULTS: Controllable active counterpressures were measured up to 34.3 kPa, exceeding the requirement for EVA life support (29.6 kPa). Prototypes which incorporated fabrics with linear properties closely matched analytic model predictions (4.1%/−10.5% error in passive/active pressure predictions); prototypes using nonlinear fabrics did not match model predictions (errors >100%). Pressure non-uniformities were observed due to friction and the rigid SMA cartridge structure.

DISCUSSION: To our knowledge this is the first demonstration of controllable compression technology incorporating active materials, a novel contribution to the field of compression garment design. This technology could lead to easy-to-don compression garments with widespread space and terrestrial applications.

Holschuh BT, Newman DJ. Morphing compression garments for space medicine and extravehicular activity using active materials. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2016; 87(2):84–92.
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Keywords: extravehicular activity; mechanical counterpressure space suit; orthostatic intolerance; shape memory alloys; wearable technology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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