Can you see it? Sport’s use of science to win
Feb 26 2008 by Andrew Flynn, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Dr TIM GABRIEL of Huddersfield University asks whether the use of nanotechnology could help bring sporting glory to UK sportsmen and women
IS our nation’s sport is in crisis? England’s failure to reach Euro 2008, a sorry representation at Wimbledon year after year and with drugs dope Dwain Chambers in the midst of scandal – winning may only be possible using performance enhancing drugs.
If more and more competitors receive penalties for doping, will people now turn to the use of science and technology?
And at what point do we consider whether or not the sports equipment that athletes use provides an unfair advantage over the competition?
Will Beijing Olympics’ gold medal winners have used the latest in footwear technology or the forthcoming winners of the PGA golf tournaments have had their driving distances improved by new materials incorporated into their golf clubs?
Will we reach a point where science and technology plays a critical part in deciding between first and second place?
However, for now, tennis players such as Andy Murray, currently ranked 12th in the world, can enjoy the developments in tennis technology and the illustrious British Wimbledon title may well be within his grasp this year.
For Murray, it may be the perfect time to capitalise on the new developments of the sporting equipment manufacturers Wilson.
The rackets have been developed with new technology which suggests the racket is twice as stable, twice as strong and 22% more powerful than ordinary rackets.
This is explained by the fact that within a tennis racket frame a network of billions of carbon fibres exist – like a number of threads wrapped together.
In between these fibres there are tiny gaps. These gaps are then filled with tiny silicon dioxide nano-particles. The size of these nano-particles is so small that hugely expensive microscopes are required to see them.
This technology is part of their n-Code and [K]ontrol range. As with most things in life this does come at a cost, and you might find prices up to £200 per racket expensive.
Perhaps some of you are already screaming “you cannot be serious!”.
Hitting a tennis ball with a normal racket is like trying to hit a ball with a hollow frame. The new nano-based rackets give you a more solid way of striking the ball with fewer vibrations. They are not the only company producing rackets incorporating nanostructures into their technology, it seems other companies are getting in on the act.
Golf clubs have also been given the nanotechnology make over.
Tiger Woods, having just achieved his sixth championship win, has moved into the position of fourth greatest golfer of all time.
It looks like his competition may need to employ the use of super golf clubs to challenge him.
Carbon nanotubes, tiny tubes billionths of a metre wide and stronger than steel, reinforce the resin that glues existing carbon fibres in the club. Also flat nano-particles line the shaft of the club improving its strength and stability.
Golfers can also enjoy straightened drives with new nano-golf balls with fewer chances of hooks and slices.
Interestingly, sporting regulators in more traditional sports have tried to keep technology out of sport.
In some cases this is done by refusing endorsements or approval for tournament usage. However trying to police new sports wear which could regulate body temperature and draw away sweat from the body, for example, may be excessive and difficult. So where should we draw the line?
Despite the available technology and the lack of regulations which govern the productions of nano- materials it appears that Britain’s sporting stars could employ the use of more of these sporting devices to improve the take-home of medal and trophies.
In fact, Dwain Chambers’ current form may be down to new shock absorbent trainers, while Andy and Jamie Murray might do well to invest in new nano-tennis rackets in an attempt to avoid their latest spats ruining success on the court.