Nanotechnology offers enormous potential for developing athletic equipment in the field of sports. Nanotechnology can make sports safer for athletes. These tiny yet powerful additions could be the difference between winners and losers in the game. CNTs, nanoclay, silica nanoparticle, and more make equipment lighter and more flexible. However, the question remains. Is the usage of such technology unfair? Read on to find out how nanotechnology enhances the human ability and how it has made sports safer for athletes.

Superior Equipment with Nano-Scale Enhancements

Source: Nanowerk

Baseball bats, tennis and badminton racquets, hockey sticks, racing bicycles, golf balls/clubs, skiing equipment, and arrows used in archery are some equipment whose performance and durability are being enhanced with the addition of nanomaterials. Nanomaterials include carbon nanotubes (CNTs), silica nanoparticles (SNPs), nanoclays, and fullerenes. When these materials are integrated into various sports apparatus, they have proven to improve athletes’ performance. This is mainly because while being lightweight, nanomaterials are strong, reduce friction, and are abrasion-resistant.

CNTs

CNTs are 117 times stronger than steel and 30 times stronger than Kevlar, the material used to manufacture bulletproof vests. At the same time, they are much lighter than steel. This makes them perfect to manufacture tennis racquets, handlebars for mountain-bikes, durable and race-bicycle structures. Bicycle Manufacturing Co. (BMC), manufactured a bike that weighed only 1055 grams using CNTs. The bike had 400 times greater tubular strength than steel. When used in golf clubs, CNTs reduce the weight of the clubs and lower the torque or spin of clubs. This makes swings much more accurate. Graphene oxide and buckypaper (a sheet of CNTs) are incorporated into canoes or race-boats to help them glide across the water while making them stronger and lightweight. Sports equipment that shows at least 10–20% better performance/durability sells better in the market even if there is a steep price hike.

Silica Nanoparticles (SNPs)

Roger Federer has won many tournaments including the Wimbledon championships using nano-enhanced racquets. He has used racquets enhanced with SNPs. SNP infused tennis racquets are stronger and have proved to have a 22% more ball-hitting probability than normal racquets. Largely due to the fact that lighter racquets offer better control and flexibility for the user. Fullerenes, nanoclay, and nano titanium particles increase resilience and bounce of the ball and provide more accurate shots. SNPs are also added to skiing equipment to provide better flexibility control for skiing. This allows for much smoother rides, turns, and eventually fewer risks for injury.

Nanoclay

Nanoclay linings are added to footballs and tennis balls. These particles act as a barrier against the pressure the ball is subjected to during play. Nanoclay lengthens the lifecycle of the balls. Athlete protective gear is also manufactured with nanoclay linings. This apparel offer increased durability. Moreover, they are weightless and thin enough to offer superior protection without hindering movement.

Nanotech in F1 Racing

Winning the race mostly depends on the weight of the car in F1 racing. Nanocomposites can help here. They are infused into the car body making it lightweight and durable. Which is a must-have while speeding around turns at 300 mph. Additionally, nanocomposite particles can fill in the tiny gaps between the paint molecules and the metal of the car body. This can speed up the car. The role of nanotechnology in F1 racing doesn’t end there, nanofibers are added to brakes, and nanoparticles are added in lubricants to reduce wear and tear. McLaren has also used the A123 battery technology on its cars. The A123s nano phosphate lithium-ion batteries were successful due to the combination of weightlessness and better charge/discharge capacity. Nano-based paints are also used for thermal resistance and for reducing aerodynamic drag.

Water Repellent Nanoparticles in swimsuits

Sun Dry Swim makes use of quick-dry nanotechnology for swimwear fabric that practically wicks away water as naturally as skin. This swimwear is also assured to be completely safe for skin and is environmentally friendly. Nanoparticles are infused directly into the swimsuit fabric molecules. They form into a nanoscopic membrane to provide a permanent water-repellent surface without compromising the fabric weave. The hydrophobic effect also means that the fabric is easy to clean. When water is not absorbed into the fabric, the fabric is lighter and swimmers will have added agility in the water.

ExoNanoFoam in Football

Source: C&EN

ExoNanoFoam is a nano-enabled foam that is useful for conducting studies. Upon pressure, the material produces an electrical voltage. A microcontroller sensor present in the helmet reads the electrical voltage and transmits a signal to a tablet. The tablet consists of a program that translates it and offers real-time information on the impact of the hit on the player. This measurement informs coaches whether a collision can induce a concussion, even when the player reports feeling fine.

Conclusion

Nanotechnology is improving athletes’ performances. However, there should be a segregator as technology should not overpower an athlete’s natural ability. Additionally, it would be unfair if all participants do not have access to the same high tech equipment. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) constantly keeps tabs on the latest advancements in sports equipment and debate on whether or not a technology should be allowed. In the world of professional sports, a technology capable of improving the performance of a sportsman without being contrary to the rules of a sports federation may be permitted.

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