Virus-fighting surface coating being tested by astronauts


Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are conducting experiments with an antimicrobial surface coating designed to fight the spread of bacteria and viruses.

Developed in partnership between AIBN and Boeing, the coating was developed to inhibit viral agents, such as the Earth-bound coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.

The technology has already been tested aboard Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator as part of the company’s Confident Travel Initiative, with very encouraging preliminary results.

The ISS experiment tests two identical sets of objects from aircraft – including a seatbelt buckle, fabric from aeroplane seats and seat belts, parts of an armrest and a tray table – with only one set receiving the antimicrobial surface coating.

To promote microbial growth, space station crew members will touch both sets of objects every few days to transfer microbes naturally occurring on human skin. No microbe samples were sent to the station for this experiment.

An antimicrobial surface coating in a spacecraft could help ensure the health of the crew and protect the spacecraft’s systems from bacteria – and ultimately may help prevent interplanetary contamination from Earth-borne or another planet’s microbes.

While the initial purpose of the antimicrobial coating was to help protect space missions, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the coating’s formula was modified so it could target the COVID-19 virus if it is present on a surface on Earth.