Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have conducted experiments using an antimicrobial surface coating developed by Boeing and the University of Queensland.
The surface coating, designed to fight the spread of bacteria and viruses, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic, was first tested aboard Boeing's ecoDemonstrator last year as part of the company's Confident Travel Initiative.
"While testing continues on orbit and on Earth, we're encouraged by the preliminary results of the antimicrobial chemical compound," Mike Delaney, Boeing's chief aerospace safety officer, said.
"There is the potential for broad-based applicability for a surface coating like this when used in conjunction with other measures to prevent disease transmission."
The ISS experiment involves the testing of two identical sets of objects, including an airplane seat buckle, fabric from airplane seats and seat belts, and parts of an armrest and a tray table.
Astronauts are touching both sets of objects every few days to transfer microbes naturally occurring on human skin, with no microbe samples sent to the station for this experiment.
The test objects are expected to return to Earth for analysis later this year.
"After years of development, it is truly exciting to see our research in space," Professor Michael Monteiro from UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, said.
"The primary purpose of our antimicrobial coating was to help protect space missions. After the current pandemic struck, we modified the coating's formula to also target the COVID-19 virus if it is present on a surface on Earth.
“We look forward to continuing our testing regimen and working to gain regulatory approvals."
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