Scientists at the University of North Carolina conducted experiments on mice that could lead to the creation of technology to freeze people for long space flights. The researchers used sound waves to lower the mice’s temperature to minus 6 degrees Celsius, causing them to enter a state of anabiosis in which all vital functions are slowed to a minimum. This could be useful for future missions to Mars, as it would reduce the amount of resources needed and ensure the health of astronauts.
How does freezing technology work?
Researchers used a technique called “acoustic thermal activation,” which uses sound waves to create internal friction in body tissues. This leads to an increase in heat production and, therefore, an increase in temperature within the tissues. However, if the sound waves are tuned to a certain frequency and intensity, they can cause the opposite effect and reduce tissue temperature.
In the experiment, mice were exposed to sound waves with a frequency of 350 kHz, which caused rapid tissue cooling. This caused the mice’s breathing and heartbeat to slow down, as well as a decrease in brain activity. However, the mice returned to normal activity after the sound waves ended.
How could this be useful for spaceflight?
On spacecraft, limited resources such as food, water and oxygen make long flights to other planets extremely difficult. If astronauts could be frozen for the duration of the flight, it would significantly reduce resource consumption and increase flight time. In addition, the state of anabiosis can protect the body from the harmful effects of space radiation and other factors that can negatively affect the health of astronauts.
What are the limitations and problems?
Despite the potential benefits, freezing technology for spaceflight is still in its infancy and requires more research. One major concern is the potential for tissue damage from rapid refrigeration. In addition, there is a need to make sure that astronauts can be safely “unfrozen” and return to normal activities after a long period of anabiosis.
However, if these problems are solved, freezing technology could become one of the key elements for achieving long-duration spaceflight and colonizing other planets.