In Brief

An astronaut steps into a loose garment, turns on a switch and voila, it shrinks to fit the body perfectly

The next space suit design could just be sci-fi dream come true. Researchers at MIT are now exploring the possibility of making spacesuits with shape-memory alloys (SMA) that revert to original engineered shapes at specific temperatures.

While there is no design yet for the whole suit, Dava Newman, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT, has co-created a wearable cuff made of small spring-like coils that works like a heat-activated tourniquet.

The small coils are made of nickel-titanium SMA and are engineered at 450-degrees Celsius to a specific shape. Although flexible, when the alloy is exposed to 60 degrees Celsius, it reverts to its original shape. A previous MIT project show how the material replicates the movement of an earthworm by simply applying varying amounts of electric current. The result is a durable, cheap and lightweight mobile robot.

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