Procter & Gamble to Launch Tide Laundry Detergent Research on SpaceX CRS-25
Here on Earth, environmental challenges like water scarcity and climate change are a growing concern. Procter & Gamble (P&G), a brand of household products used by more than half of the world's population, has committed itself to making eco-friendly and sustainable products for consumers on Earth. To that end, P&G has turned its gaze to space.
Above: Kristi Niehaus, a Proctor & Gamble (P&G) scientist, uses chili sauce to create a stain that will be used to test Tide detergent solution onboard the International Space Station. (P&G)
As part of SpaceX's upcoming 25th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission, P&G is launching an investigation that will evaluate how its Tide to Go Pens and Tide to Go Wipes work in space. The study, sponsored by the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory, is a continuation of P&G's space-based research, which has already taken initial steps toward improved products for consumers.
The microgravity environment of the space station provides a unique platform to study how fluids interact with each other on a fundamental level. Many of P&G's products are emulsions, which are tiny drops of liquids dispersed in another fluid, and better understanding how the different fluid components interact can lead to improved products.
In December 2021, P&G sent samples of one of those products — a fully degradable launch detergent called Tide Infinity — to the ISS. The goal of that investigation was to advance cleaning solutions for resource-constrained environments like space and even areas on Earth where water is scarce. Additionally, it evaluated how well the components of the detergent held up in the microgravity environment.
According to P&G, initial results have shown that Tide Infinity could provide a good balance between cleaning clothes effectively while also being environmentally friendly. The findings also indicate that leftover water produced from washing could be recycled and even reused with the help of water reclamation systems.
Above: The batch of Proctor & Gamble (P&G) Telescience Investigation of Detergent Experiments (PGTIDE) will study how stain removal ingredients in Tide To Go Pens and Tide To Go Wipes perform in microgravity. (P&G)
The company's latest investigation launching on SpaceX CRS-25 is part of an effort to evaluate the stain removal ingredients in P&G's Tide To Go Pens and Tide to Go Wipes. The investigation's main objective is to evaluate the stain removal ingredients and performance in microgravity. The team hopes to better understand the fundamentals of how fluids wick into and interact with woven fibers, which could provide insights that will lead to better products.
"We are incredibly excited to send these products to space," said Jennifer Ahoni, director of scientific communications at P&G. "Our goal is to provide our customers with the most effective products while also making those products more sustainable." According to Ahoni, the crew will perform stain application and removal activities by applying 10 different "fresh stains" commonly found on the orbiting laboratory to polycotton swatch samples and then remove the stains using the Tide To Go Pens and Tide To Go Wipes. The crew will also test "aged stains" that were applied to swatches prior to launch.
"One of the things we will be testing is sriracha hot sauce," Ahoni said. "We know the astronauts tend to use a lot of it on their food, so we will be using it to test our products and see how they fare in microgravity."
Videos and photos will be taken during the investigation to help researchers understand how microgravity affects the movement of the detergent through the Tide To Go Pen compared with how it flows on Earth. Additionally, the research team seeks to evaluate the efficacy of amine oxides — a family of common surfactants used in emulsions such as laundry detergent to decrease the surface tension between two substances. The team will examine how well the amine oxides in the detergent work on stain removal and determine the relationship between the amount of detergent solution applied and its efficacy.
Data collected from this investigation will help the P&G team learn more about the stability of cleaning ingredients under microgravity conditions and radiation exposure in space. In doing so, the company hopes to gain insights that could improve the production of Tide products for consumers on Earth. Results could also further knowledge on the development of laundry detergent solutions to support future long-duration spaceflight missions.
SpaceX CRS-25 is targeted for launch from Kennedy Space Center no earlier than July 14 at 8:44 p.m. EDT. This mission will include more than 15 ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads.