Hand Sanitizer, Anyone?

Scientists’ New Goal: Make the ISS Bathroom Less Disgusting

A new antimicrobial coating could give the ISS bathroom a much-needed cleaning.

3. 20. 19 by Dan Robitzski
Lullone via Pixabay/Tag Hartman-Simkins
Image by Lullone via Pixabay/Tag Hartman-Simkins

Space Poop

Space may be devoid of life, but us Earthlings are working hard to change that, especially when it comes to the bacteria growing in the International Space Station’s bathroom.

The ISS’s bathroom isn’t the cleanest place in the universe, which is a problem given that space travel can weaken a person’s immune system — and that antibiotic-resistant bacteria have already been found on board.

“Spaceflight can turn harmless bacteria into potential pathogens,” said Elisabeth Grohmann, a microbiologist at Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin, in a press release. “Just as stress hormones leave astronauts vulnerable to infection, the bacteria they carry become hardier — developing thick protective coatings and resistance to antibiotics — and more vigorous, multiplying and metabolizing faster.”

No-Stick Surface

To help keep any astronauts who may have forgotten to wash their hands safe, Grohmann and her team developed a new, antimicrobial coating made of silver and ruthenium that they call AGXX, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

Advertisement

To test it out, the scientists put an AGXX coating on the ISS’s bathroom door. After six months, they didn’t find a bacterial cell on the surface. Some bacteria emerged after a year, but the AGXX coating still hosted 80 percent less bacteria than an uncoated steel door, according to the research.

Get the Elbow Grease

In the same press release, Grohmann blamed the bacterial growth on dust and other things that could have gotten in the way of the AGXX, adding that none of the bacteria that did survive was particularly dangerous.

“With prolonged exposure time a few bacteria escaped the antimicrobial action,” Grohmann said. “The antimicrobial test-materials are static surfaces, where dead cells, dust particles and cell debris can accumulate over time and interfere with the direct contact between the antimicrobial surface and the bacteria.”

It may not be perfect over long periods of time, but anything that keeps astronauts’ space poop where it belongs is a step in the right direction as NASA and other organizations figure out how to travel deeper into space over longer periods of time.

Advertisement

READ MORE: Scientists are trying to make the International Space Station’s bathroom a little less gross [BGR]

More on the ISS: Russia Says the American Toilet on the Space Station Blew Up


As a Futurism reader, we invite you join the Singularity Global Community, our parent company’s forum to discuss futuristic science & technology with like-minded people from all over the world. It’s free to join, sign up now!

Share This Article

Keep up.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter to keep in touch with the subjects shaping our future.
I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement and Privacy Policy

Advertisement

Copyright ©, Singularity Education Group All Rights Reserved. See our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Futurism. Fonts by Typekit and Monotype.