The right squeeze: Space technology and compression garments

Minnesota Alumni, Summer 2019

Space movies are tough for MnDrive faculty member Brad Holschuh, who has devoted his career to inventing and developing garments to improve life not just in space but also here on Earth. So when he saw Matt Damon strolling around Mars in The Martian wearing a space suit replete with wrinkles, he wasn’t able to suspend his disbelief. 

“He’d be dead,” says the assistant professor in the University of Minnesota’s Apparel Design Program, who also codirects the U’s Wearable Technology Lab with Associate Professor Lucy Dunne. “For a spacesuit to work, it has to be fully inflated.” 

Holschuh and his colleagues in the Wearable Technology Lab are taking their expertise in space suit design and applying it to soft robotics—robots made of pliable materials—in order to create compression garments that initiate compression after they’re on the body.