A new "electric gauze" is being developed by NASA to more quickly close wounds and speed up the healing process. This could come in handy not only on Earth or the International Space Station, but future crewed missions to Mars.
This material, called Polyvinylidene Fluoride or PVDF, is electroactive, meaning if any energy is applied to it – warming it up, pushing on it, or even breathing on it – it will generate a voltage.
"Body temperature is sufficient to induce this charge," said Emilie Siochi of NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia in a video (see below). "You hear a lot about athletes when they get hurt, they heal much faster when you apply an electric signal. The voltage actually helps to heal the wound."
Siochi and her team have already started experimenting with the material and found that wounds covered in it tend to heal faster. They found when PVDF is used as a "scaffolding" for tissue engineering, cells prefer aligned fibers.
The team has developed a process of turning the PVDF material into a gauze or bandage that can be put onto someone when they get hurt.
To make PVDF into a fiber material, scientists use a process called electro-spinning. They mix a solution of the polymer and then apply voltage so that when it comes out of a syringe, it is a fine fiber that stretches and "lines up" the molecules. It is then made into a gauze.
While the technology is promising, more research needs to be done to understand how it might function in microgravity or another planet, as blood flows differently depending on the amount of gravity.
Video courtesy of NASA Technology Transfer Program