Tuesday, April 1, 2008
The swiftest, fastest swimsuit in the world has recently been released. This is the result of a partnership between Rick Sharp, a professor of physiology at Iowa State University and Dr. Herve Morvan, a lecturer in fluid mechanics in the School of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Nottingham. This collaboration has led to the development of a ground-breaking new swimsuit, Speedo’s new LZR Racer swimsuit, commonly referred to as the “world’s fastest swimsuit.” Internationally renowned sports and engineering based organizations such as Speedo, NASA, ANSYS and some international research institutes and engineering partners came together to design and ultimately create this new state-of-the-art swimsuit.
The creation of this new swimsuit has proven very successful such that three world records were broken at competitions in Missouri and Australia within a week of its launch. The swimsuit allows swimmers to consume 5 percent less oxygen at a specific speed, allowing them to swim faster.
Morvan’s team in Nottingham, the Computational Fluid Dynamics gurus, specializes in the computer representation of fluid flow. The CFD technique is technologically advancing in that it serves not just to decrease design times but also to increase productivity as it locates areas on the body that created the most drag.
During the development of this futuristic swimsuit, Speedo AQUALAB (to which Morvan is serving as an advisor) examined over 400 athletes to optimize shapes, sizes and contours. This study also includes high ranking athletes such as Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin, whose body scans were used in building the suit. Morvan’s team used the CFD study to identify areas of high friction on each athlete’s body.
Morvan states that CFD enabled them to closely align the suit to fit the athlete’s body with regards to the athlete’s physiological and bio-mechanical requirements as well as their skin or motion reaction. Polyurethane membranes with 24 percent lower drag have been placed in only a few prominent positions on the suit, replacing the woven fabric that was used in previous designs. Further developments on the new suit are underway in preparation for the 2012 Olympics in London but as of now, the latest version has 5 percent less passive drag than Speedo’s previous version.
This high-tech new suit features “ultra low zippers” and depends on “ultrasonic welding” that enables it to cause even less drag. The question is will this new world-shattering, performance-enhancing suit be too swift for the 2012 Olympics?