A Guest Post by Steve Hamilton
The recent controversy about the role that advanced swimming suit fabrics played in Michael Phelps’ impressive Olympic wins is just one example of how technology is affecting sports. The textured fabrics, inspired by sharkskin, may have helped him make those record-breaking achievements, and subsequent advancements in swimsuit technology have already helped to lead to others surpassing those records.
So what are some other advancements that are being introduced into the world of sports? Here are just a few:
- Gecko-Inspired Adhesion – Like the fabric inspired by sharks, this is another example of biomimetics, where we find inspiration for technological advancements in nature. Scientists have developed materials that improve adhesion while in motion just as geckos are able to do in the wild. The result will be better nonskid grips and climbing shoes.
- Active Protection System Materials – In many high-speed and high-impact sports, protective clothing plays an important role, but it also tends to be bulky and restrict the athlete – until now. Special reactive materials from d30 and Dow Corning allow for greater flexibility, but they include nanoparticles in the fabric that become rigid when the kinetic energy threshold is passed. What does that mean in layman’s terms? They immediately harden – and provide protection – upon impact. The technology has been used for everything from shin guards to ballet shoes.
- BCS Swim Suits – Aqua Sphere’s Body Control System (BCS) doesn’t enhance your performance, but it may help enhance your self-esteem. It provides shape and support for the bust, tummy, and hips through specially designed panels and a combination of AquaXcell and AquaXcell+ fabric. The result is a more flattering silhouette.
- Carbon Nanotechnology – Scientists have changed the atomic structure of carbon to create a material that is stronger than steel but super light. The new structure is created of extremely small, hollow, carbon-based tubes. Just how small? 100,000 times thinner than a human hair! These improvements have already led to lighter and stronger tennis rackets, golf clubs, golf and tennis balls, baseball bats, hockey sticks, and bicycles.
- Ingestible Computers – The second-leading cause of death for athletes is heat exhaustion, but new technology aims to change that. Instead of monitoring core body temperature simply through observing the athlete, which can lead to it being missed altogether both by the athlete and his or her trainers, a so-called thermometer pill can be ingested to transmit data about body temperature and heart rate. The pill uses a quartz crystal sensor and micro-battery wrapped in silicon to monitor as it goes through the gastrointestinal tract. It is already being used by many athletes in auto racing, field and track, hockey, football, soccer, and cycling.
Of course, we’re just at the beginning of where sports technology can take us! Who knows how this will advance humans’ physical capabilities and continue to inspire us to surpass our previous achievements.
Steven Hamilton frequently writes and reviews sports apparel, especially competitive swimwear, swim gear, and other swimming related products. When he’s not writing or working, he can often be found sharpening his own swimming skills.