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The Science Behind Swimsuits

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Rachel Bocwinski

on 1 June 2014

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Transcript of The Science Behind Swimsuits

The Science Behind Swimsuits

What is Drag?
In terms of swimming, drag is the product of contact between a liquid (the water) and a solid (the swimmer)

There are 2 major types of drag:
1. Form Drag: the way a swimmer's body affects the surrounding water
2. Skin Friction: how a swimmer's skin sticks to the water, which prevents the body from moving smoothly

In the swimsuit industry, therefore, companies compete to create swimsuits that cut the amount of drag
The LZR Racer
Produced by Speedo's Aqualab in partnership with NASA
Tested almost 60 fabrics in a small wind tunnel to see which one best reduced drag
~provided a controlled environment to test fabrics
Fluid dynamics: liquid and gases in motion
~relationship between aircraft studies and that of swimming
The Fastskin3
Created by Speedo after the 2008 Olympic's LZR Racer suit (for the 2012 Olympics)
Suit, cap, and goggles designed to work in unison
~Made with advanced textiles
1. Hydro K-Zone 3D fabric
2. Pulse-Flex fabric
~Compresses to create ultimate hydrodynamic shape
By Rachel Bocwinski
Speedo. TYR. Nike. These are some of the most popular swimsuit brands used by athletes in competitive swimming. In this presentation, we'll explore how these suits are made, the science behind them, and controversies that have surrounded their success.
LZR Racer Continued

LZR Pulse fabric lessens the amount of vibrations in the muscles due to repetitive motions using compression
~this Pulse fabric contains small grooves that imitate a shark's skin

Seams on the suit are welded ultrasonically
~heat produced from high-pitched noises
~bonding the material in this way reduces drag by up to 6% (as opposed to stitching)
Partly made of polyurethane, a durable, flexible polymer (molecules bonded in chains)
Full-body swimsuit
~more skin coverage reduces drag
Zippers are small and built into the suit
Compresses the swimmer's body into a streamlined shape
Ways to Combat Drag
Form Drag: use a heavier material to create a more perfect, straight, streamlined stroke

Skin Friction: use a light, smooth material to enable a swimmer to glide through the water

Drag can potentially slow a swimmer down up to 25%
Fastskin3 Continued
~ 3D body scanning to produce CGI (computer generated images)
~ fits the shape of head and face individually
~Streamline shape minimizes the water's force on the goggles
~Reduces the risk of goggles shifting
Federation Internationale de Natacion (International Swimming Federation
Founded in 1908
International group that governs water sports
~water polo
~synchronized swimming
~open-water swimming
Includes a Swimwear Approval Committee

Examples of Rules
"BL 8.3 From January 1, 2010 in swimming pool competitions, swimsuit for men shall not extend
above the navel nor below the knee, and for women, shall not cover the neck, extend
past the shoulder, nor shall extend below knee. All swimsuits shall be made from textile
"Buoyancy: The swimsuit shall not have a buoyancy effect above 0.5 Newton measured after application of vacuum" (FINA REQUIREMENTS FOR SWIMWEAR APPROVAL (FRSA) 6).
"Type of material: the material used for swimsuits can be only "Textile Fabric(s)". For
the purpose of these rules, this is defined as material consisting of, natural and/or
synthetic, individual and non-consolidated yarns used to constitute a fabric by weaving,knitting, and/or braiding" (FINA REQUIREMENTS FOR SWIMWEAR APPROVAL (FRSA) 6).
The LZR Racer was worn by many swimmers during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and over 20 world records were broken
FINA ruled that the suit gave too much of an advantage
~Prohibited certain types of materials (including polyurethane-based)
~No zippers
~Limited the amount of skin that men could cover
Also, buoyancy foam skin was banned (only fabric suits with no lift)

• “That's No Swimsuit, That's A Racing System”. NPR. N.p., 2012. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.npr.org/2012/08/04/157826410/thats-no-swimsuit-thats-a-racing-system.
• Morley, Kenny. “High-Tech Swimsuits Decrease Drag and Lap Times”. Sports ‘N Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://sportsnscience.utah.edu/high-tech-swimsuits-decrease-drag-and-lap times/.
• “FINA Requirements for Swimwear Approval (FRSA)”. FINA: Water is Our World. FINA, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.fina.org/H2O/docs/rules/FRSA.pdf.
• “Record Breaking Benefits”. NASA. NASA, 2012. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/home/tech_record_breaking.html.
• “Speedo LZR Racer Technology”. Speedo. Speedo., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.speedo.com/technologies_2/technology/lzrracer_2/index.html.
• “Speedo’s LZR: the World’s Fastest Swimsuit”. Stc-Orlando.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.stc-orlando.org/education/highsch/winning_entries/2010_RFricke.pdf.
• “Olympic Swimming Records Set to Tumble at London 2012 as Speedo Unveil Fastskin3 Swimwear System”. The Telegraph. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/swimming/8924083/Olympic-swimming-records-set-to-tumble-at-London-2012-as-Speedo-unveil-Fastskin3-swimwear-system.html.

Created by the reaction of a polyol with a diisocyanate or a polymeric isocyanate
Polyol: alcohol with 2+ hydroxyl groups (for each molecule)
Diisocyanate: building blocks of polyurethane (toluene diisocyanate, methylenediphenyl diisocyanate, etc.)
Polymeric isocyanate: organic group; 2 isocyanate groups = 1 diisocyanate
The chemicals are stored, pressurized, heated, and mixed so that the reaction to produce polyurethane may be completed

"Isocyanates, Urethane Monomer, Urethane Prepolymers,
Urethane Sensitivity, Hazards and Explanation". Wasser: High-Tech Coatings. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2014. http://www.polymer-services.com/Isocyan-2000.pdf
"How Polyurethane is Made". American Chemistry Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2014. http://polyurethane.americanchemistry.com/Introduction-to-Polyurethanes/How-Its-Made
To Make the Suits...
Physiology: area of biology that addresses the functions and parts of living organisms

Biomechanics: "the study of the mechanical laws relating to the movement or structure of living organisms" (https://www.google.com/#q=define:biomechanics)

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD): area of fluid mechanics that uses algorithms and numerical calculations to study issues involving the flow of a fluid
"Fastskin LZR Racer: The World's Fastest Swimsuit". Speedo. Speedo, n.d. Web. 31 May 2014. http://m.speedousa.com/technology/popup.jsp?technologyId=Fastskin%20LZR%20Racer
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