Electrodes in spacesuits to protect astronauts from Martian dust

When astronauts fly to Mars, their safety may be threatened by dust that will stick to their spacesuits. In order to get rid of this danger, scientists propose to equip them with electrodes that will create a static repulsion effect.

Martian dust can create a lot of problems for astronauts. Source: phys.org

Dangerous Martian dust

NASA experts boldly promise that before 2040 people will reach Mars. However, engineers need to solve a whole bunch of tasks to overcome the impact of a large number of adverse factors on astronauts. Recently, they suggested how to get rid of dust, which is a lot on the red planet. 

Martian dust is fine, electrically charged and also has sharp edges. It easily sticks to the spacesuits from the outside and gets inside the joints, which causes their premature failure. If it is carried inside the residential module, it can easily pollute the air and create a danger for the crew.

In order to prevent this, scientists propose to equip spacesuits with a system of electrodes that will create an electrostatic repulsion effect. This idea was proposed by British scientists from the University of Bristol.

How will the new system work?

Dielectrophoresis, which underlies the operation of the proposed principle, is a phenomenon of motion of neutral particles under the action of an inhomogeneous electric field. The proposed Electrostatic Removal System (ERS) consists of two components.

One of them is a High Voltage Waveform Generator (HVWG), which is used to create rectangular waves of various frequencies and amplitudes up to 1000 volts, and the second is an Electrostatic Removal Device (ERD) consisting of an array of parallel copper electrodes. When electromagnetic waves propagate to the electrodes in the ERD, a large alternating electric field is generated.

When dust particles fall on the surface of the ERD, a combination of electrostatic and dielectrophoretic forces begins to act on them. They cause charged and uncharged particles inside the dust to move, respectively. This forces the material to move in a direction perpendicular to the electrodes, which leads to cleaning of the surface of the suit.

To evaluate the effectiveness of their proposed system, Griggs and Prof. Berthoud developed an experiment to explore several key variables. There were a lot of them: the frequency and amplitude of the waves, the distance between the electrodes, the incline of the ERD surface, the distance between the electrodes and the dust layer and the surface material from which the dust is removed. Based on them, an analytical model was created, which should later turn into a sample of equipment.

According to phys.org

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