In everything from the latest swimsuit to the newest sports venue, the chemical enterprise is present at the 2012 London Summer Olympics with polymers, fibers, and other materials chosen for both performance and sustainability.
Swimsuit maker Speedo has outfitted swimmers, including record-breaking medalist Michael Phelps, with its Fastskin3 swimming trunks. Made in part of spandex, the apparel is designed to compress and sculpt the body to reduce skin friction drag by 3%, the company says.
The Fastskin3 trunks replace the now-banned full-body Speedo LZR suit Phelps wore four years ago at the Beijing Olympics. Andrew H. Dent, vice president of consulting firm Material ConneXion, explains that the polyurethane suit has a sharkskin-like texture that makes swimmers more buoyant than they are when wearing conventional suits and gives their wearers an unfair racing advantage.
Material ConneXion just opened an exhibit in New York City showcasing innovative sports materials, including many used in London. Examples on display include carbon, p-aramid, and boron fiber composite bicycle wheels from Reynolds Cycling and Hoyt’s F7 sports bow, made of aerospace-grade carbon fiber laminates.
Dutch chemical maker DSM supplied urethane resins to help Germany’s Empacher build eight-person competition rowboats out of thin carbon fiber tape. The resulting stiff hull reduces energy loss and amplifies the rowers’ efforts. DSM also worked with BP to supply Olympic vehicles with diesel made from sugar.
A building wrap made of polyethylene and polyester from Dow Chemical, the official chemistry company of the Olympics, encircles the London Olympic Stadium. Printed with ultraviolet-light-cured inks, the wrap includes recycled polymers, according to Material ConneXion’s Dent. He points out that the materials are an alternative to polyvinyl chloride, which Olympic organizers sought to restrict because it contains phthalates and other chemicals they consider harmful to human health.
Dow also provided polyethylene for the artificial turf on the field hockey arena. Dow claims the polymer blades are more resilient, more durable, and safer for players to slide, tackle, and fall on than natural turf. In addition, builders of the Copper Box handball arena used Dow’s polystyrene foam floor insulation to meet structural and energy efficiency requirements.