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Germany's Hohenstein & Aerospace researchers develop SmartTex shirt

18 Nov '21
3 min read
Pic: Hohenstein
Pic: Hohenstein

SmartTex shirt has been developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in cooperation with DSI Aerospace Technology, the medical faculty of Bielefeld University and textile research partner Hohenstein to help researchers evaluate the effects of the space environment on the human cardiovascular system. It uses integrated sensors to transfer physiological data from astronauts to Earth via a wireless communication network.

SmartTex is being tested as part of the Wireless Compose-2 (WICO2) project by ESA astronaut Dr Matthias Maurer, who left for his six-month ‘Cosmic Kiss’ mission on the International Space Station (ISS) on October 30, 2021.

The SmartTex shirt is intended to provide a continuous picture of the vital functions of astronauts, which will be particularly relevant for future long-term manned space missions to the Moon and Mars. Future transfer of the SmartTex technology to fitness and telemedicine applications is expected.

"During the previous Spacetex (2014) and Spacetex2 (2018) projects, we gathered valuable data on the interaction of the body, clothing and climate under microgravity conditions," Hohenstein senior scientific expert, Dr Jan Beringer said in a statement. The comfort and material insights provided by those experiments with ESA astronaut Dr Alexander Gerst have been incorporated into Hohenstein’s design of the new SmartTex shirt.

"Dr Maurer can wear his tailor-made shirt comfortably during everyday work on the ISS. We used his body measurements for pattern development and production. We also integrated the sensors, data processors and communication modules into the shirt so that they interfere as little as possible and are always positioned in the right place, regardless of the wearing situation. This is the prerequisite for reliable measurement of physiological data,” added Beringer.

During the BEAT experiment (Ballistocardiography for Extraterrestrial Applications and long-Term missions), Maurer is the first astronaut to wear a T-shirt equipped with sensors that measure his ballistocardiographic data such as pulse and relative blood pressure. For this purpose, the sensors were calibrated in the :envihab research facility at the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne. Details can also be read on the contraction rate and opening and closing times of the heart valves, which are normally accessible only via sonography or computer tomography.

The project was planned and prepared by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and its partners DSI Aerospace Technology, Hohenstein and the University of Bielefeld. The wireless communication network reads sensor data and can determine the position of people and objects in space by propagation times of radio pulses. It is also available as a platform for several experiments on the ISS. The data is temporarily stored within the network and read out at regular intervals by the astronauts. These data packets are then transferred to Earth via the ISS link and analysed by the research teams. It can generate its own energy from artificial light sources via photovoltaic cells.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (KD)

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