Welcome to our project page! This year's theme was space, and our project task was to find a problem that related to people in space. Our team's problem that we researched was laundry in space. At the moment, there isn't a way to clean clothes in space. NASA has looked into this and have hired companies to try to find a way to clean clothes in space. We thought this would be a good topic to research and find a solution to, because not having clean clothes can be a big problem when you're in close proximity with other people for over a year, and dirty clothes could interfere when handling delicate equipment. We researched this topic a lot, and came up with our solution: The VAL 9000.
The VAL 9000
Our solution is a space and energy efficient laundry system. Using the on board bike exercise machine, you can clean dirty clothes. Two cylinders are connected to the bike pedals by belts, as shown in the diagram. One of the two cylinders has a bag made of a Kevlar outside and a polyurethane inside wrapped around it. To get the bag ready to clean clothes, put your clothes in the bag with some detergent and use the on board vacuum to suck the air out of the bag. The reason you don’t want air in the bag is because the air makes it harder for the water molecule to penetrate the clothing fabric in microgravity. After the air is vacuumed out, add in a small amount of water using the second valve to wet the clothes. Then, roll the sides down and attach them together to form a watertight seal. The cylinder in which the bag is wrapped around is connected to the other by a belt, as shown in the diagram. This second cylinder has agitators, so that when the system is spun, it moves the clothes around in the bag to help the water come in contact with the clothes, and to clean out all the bacteria, sweat, dead skin, etc. To fully clean the clothes, vacuum out the dirty water to be cleaned by the reclamation system, add some more clean water, agitate for a little longer, vacuum the rinse water out the same way it was done before, and hang up the now clean clothes with clips meant for towels on the clothesline. The water will evaporate and go into the water reclamation system and be cleaned to be used again.
There were many experts we consulted to get information on how we should go about this. Firstly, we talked to Dr. Brad Holschuh, who told us about how water bubbles up in space, and other things about life in space. This got us thinking about how to ensure that the water mixes in with the clothes. We also talked to Dr. Chetan Jariwala, a chemist and Division Scientist at 3M. We discussed different elements we could use for the bag and machine with him. We learned that the element we were planning to use, polyurethane, may not be the best element to use - we may want to use polypropylene or polyethylene instead, because polyurethane is hydrophilic - it tries to absorb the water. We also looked at many NASA research papers to see what the best solutions are for space - and washing was one of the best solutions out there, since it saved money, mass, and space.