Astro chats: materials science in space


Join ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and @NASA astronaut Kayla Barron as they discuss electron microscopes, antimicrobial spoons and other materials science topics aboard the International Space Station.

Matthias starts by explaining an experiment, which saw crew members eat meals with special spoons made of stainless steel and copper. These spoons are part of an investigation into the antimicrobial properties of laser-structured surfaces.

Principal investigators Ralf Möller of the Institute of Space Medicine, @DLR, Cologne and Frank Mücklich from the Institute for Functional Materials, @Universität des Saarlandes have been jointly investigating the antimicrobial effect of laser-structured surfaces for use during space travel since 2017. Though the antimicrobial effect of some metals has been known for a while, modern laser surface structuring is thought to result in up to 80% less bacterial adhesion and could significantly reduce the transmission of harmful germs both in space and here on Earth.

Following this discussion, the astronauts consider potential applications of a scanning electron microscope that is currently in the technology demonstration phase. This could be used to investigate small parts and biological samples aboard the Station.

Matthias and Kayla flew to the Station together in November 2021 as mission specialists for Crew-3. They are expected to return to Earth with NASA colleagues Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn in April 2022 after approximately six months of science and operations in orbit.

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  1. Thank you Matthias for making a video about Mochii. We began this project in 2015. We are very fortunate to have you on-orbit for the installation and check out.

  2. What I love about conversations like this with Matthias is that when you ask him to talk about something he is really excited about, he just lights up like a kid with ice cream. He's usually a little reserved, I don't really know the right way to describe it, he's just very German, but when you ask him to talk about something he loves, you can just see the lightbulb go on. ESA, please do these kinds of videos more.

    I wonder what closing trick will be the popular go-to on the moon. A flip is obviously gonna be a little difficult. Maybe some sort of hop?

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