The Matiss-2 experiment was placed in Europe’s space laboratory Columbus for just under a year collecting dust and bacteria. Researchers will now analyse the surfaces to see which materials are least hospitable to unwanted bacteria – focusing on materials that expel water.
Everybody knows a clean house is a healthy place to live, but what if you live on the International Space Station? Air and water are constantly recycled and waste can only be removed when a spacecraft departs for Earth every few months. For the six astronauts living in humanity’s habitat in space, keeping the Station clean is an important part of their life to avoid bacteria and fungus. Every Saturday is cleaning day, when the whole crew wipe surfaces, vacuum and collect waste.
The Matiss experiment is investigating antibacterial properties of materials in space to see if future spacecraft could be made easier to clean.
The experiment consists of plaques placed in the European Columbus laboratory and leave for at least three months. France’s CNES space agency, in collaboration with the ENS University of Lyon, research institute CEA Tech - LETI and construction company Saint-Gobain, selected five advanced materials that could stop bacteria from settling and growing on the surface. A sixth element, made of glass, is used as control material.
The materials are a diverse mix of advanced technology – from self-assembly monolayers and green polymers to ceramic polymers and water-repellent hybrid silica. The smart materials should stop bacteria from sticking to the surface and growing, effectively making them easier to clean and more hygienic – but which one works best?
The units are open on the sides to let air flow naturally through and collect any bacteria floating past.
The Matiss-2 experiment returned to Earth for analysis on 27 August 2019 inside a Dragon spacecraft.