How the Barbie doll gets rid of the Moon dust

Scientists decide to try whether it is possible to clean up dangerous lunar dust with liquid nitrogen. For this, they used a Barbie doll, which they put on an exact replica of a lunar spacesuit. The role of the soil from our moon was played by volcanic ash.

Barbie in a lunar spacesuit. Source: Ian Wells

Barbie in a lunar spacesuit

Scientists from Washington State University have tested a new technology for cleaning spacesuits from lunar dust. To do this, they took a Barbie doll as a model. They dressed it in a suit that not only resembled what astronauts would wear on our moon, but also made of the same durable and resistant to various factors fabric.

The role of lunar dust was played by volcanic ash, which threw Mount Saint Helens into the atmosphere, where one of the strongest eruptions in North America occurred in 1980. This rock did not exactly match the parameters of what the Apollo crews had to face, but it is one of its closest analogues on Earth.

The technology was spraying the spacesuit with liquid nitrogen. This substance exists at very low temperatures and its contact with human skin would be dangerous. But the Kevlar fabric of the spacesuit withstands it without problems.

Lunar dust and the Leidenfrost effect

Even during the Apollo expeditions, people discovered that lunar dust was not only harmful to humans, but also extremely tenacious.The reason for this is its sharp edges. Therefore, just sweeping it out of the suit with a brush will not work. What’s more, if there are too many particles, they will clog under the seals and disrupt their operation.

Liquid nitrogen can help remove lunar dust due to the Leidenfrost effect. It consists in the fact that a drop of liquid falling on a surface having a temperature above its boiling point is instantly spread by it. 

In the case of liquid nitrogen, the room temperature is much higher than that at which it passes into a gaseous state. Therefore, it does not just spread over the surface of the suit, but immediately boils violently and expands 800 times. As a result, the particles detach from the surface of the fabric.

Experiments showed that as a result of the action of liquid nitrogen, 98 percent of all dust particles that were on Barbie’s spacesuit were removed from the surface. This is much better than all the methods that have been used before, so now it remains to test this technology in space, and not on Barbie.

According to

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