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Development of intelligent sock to prevent muscle loss in space
Nov '09
As part of its strategy to evaluate the effectiveness of various training aids and Astronaut workout methods, the European Space Agency (ESA) has contracted Danish smart textile specialist Ohmatex to develop and test an 'intelligent sock' to map the electrical and metabolic activity in leg muscles.

The €200,000 contract will fund an 18 month project to development and integrate near-infrared sensors and textile based EMG electrodes in a specially-made sock. The performance of the innovative health-monitoring device will be verified and tested at the Aarhus University Research Unit for Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics.

Development of the pioneering device comes at a critical moment in space exploration. It is 40 years since man first landed on the moon. Many initiatives have since been launched to minimize the muscle loss suffered by astronauts in near zero gravity conditions. Currently, both the Chinese and NASA are planning new missions in manned space flight; with the Constellation programme's new rocket Ares designed to put people into orbit and beyond, and the Orion capsule designed for 210 day moon missions. It is therefore highly relevant that ESA now will investigate technology that will pave the way for monitoring and ensuring human health during prolonged stays in space.

For Ohmatex, this project is a continuation of work done in other commercial and EU development projects. The company is becoming renowned for its expertise in integrating electronics components into textiles. Latest projects include the Safe@Sea project, which started under the EU FP7 (7th Framework) programme on 1 October 2009 and which is focused on development of new materials and integration of electronic functions in protective clothing for professional fishermen.

Christian Dalsgaard, Director of Ohmatex, said: “It is very encouraging that ESA is investing in intelligent textile development, and thereby are one of the locomotives to drive technological developments in this field. “We hope that this will be a breakthrough for Ohmatex in entering the space field, where our niche expertise has many applications.”

Mr Dalsgaard said that the challenge for 2010 will be for Ohmatex to employ new staff to meet obligations in coming projects.

Ohmatex ApS

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