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Smart Textiles

ESA funds development of textile technology to prevent muscle loss in space

In a bid to scientifically evaluate the efficacy of various training aids and astronaut workout methods, the European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a contract with Danish smart textile specialist, Ohmatex to develop and test an intelligent sock device to map the electrical and metabolic activity in leg muscles. The contract, for 199,810 Euro is for an 18 month project to develop and integrate near-infrared sensors and textile based EMG electrodes in a specially manu

23rd November 2009

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Aarhus

Clothing/​Footwear, Medical/Hygiene

smart textiles laboratoryIn a bid to scientifically evaluate the efficacy of various training aids and astronaut workout methods, the European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a contract with Danish smart textile specialist, Ohmatex to develop and test an intelligent sock device to map the electrical and metabolic activity in leg muscles.

The contract, for 199,810 Euro is for an 18 month project to develop and integrate near-infrared sensors and textile based EMG electrodes in a specially manufactured sock which will be verified and tested at the Aarhus University Research Unit for Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics. The textile based EMG sensors could be either integrated into to the sock using hosiery or flat knitting technology and the near infra-red sensors are likely to be moulded onto the sock. Ohmatex will use its textiles sensors experience to evaluate the best solutions.

It is 40 years since man first landed on the moon and since that first mission a range of initiatives have 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. Ohmatex says it is highly relevant therefore that ESA now will investigate technology that will pave the way for monitoring and preserving human health during prolonged stays in space.

Christian DalsgaardOhmatex says that this project is a continuation of work done in other commercial and EU development projects, where the company is known for its expertise in integrating electronics components in textiles. Some of the company’s latest projects include the [email protected] project, which started under the FP7 programme on 1st October 2009 and which focuses on the development of new materials and integration of electronic functions in protective clothing for professional fishermen.

 “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”, commented Ohmatex Director Christian Dalsgaard. Mr Dalsgaard adds that the challenge for 2010 will be for Ohmatex to employ new staff to meet obligations in coming projects.

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