Chemistry and sports: Innovations that are changing the game

Tonight is the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. As we cheer on the incredible athletes from around the globe, it’s amazing to think about all the advances chemistry has enabled in sports at the Olympic level and beyond.

Many types of sports equipment rely heavily on chemistry to help athletes reach peak performance—and provide critical safety and protective functions along the way. Whether it’s a tennis ball or baseball bat, elite athletes from around the world depend on the products of chemistry.

Polyurethanes

Polyurethanes, a kind of plastic, will play an important role this summer as they are frequently found in running and other athletic shoes, making them more resilient. In addition, polyurethane is found in a wide variety of popular sporting equipment, such as soccer balls, binders on running tracks and judo mats.

A number of styles of sport flooring and pour-in-place track surfaces use polyurethanes, as well. These equipment necessities alongside such items as surfboard, roller blades, bowling balls and spandex apparel are all made possible in part due to polyurethane innovations.

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is also changing the way we play sports.

For instance, nanotechnology used in golf balls can greatly improve performance by reducing hooks and slices. Tennis racquets manufactured with nanomaterials become stiffer and lighter, giving athletes faster returns and more powerful serves. And for the javelin throw or archery, rosin bags, which are derived from pine chemicals and also used by pitchers in baseball and softball, provide a strong grip.

Polycarbonate

Chemistry also helps sports equipment meet modern day needs. Polycarbonate, a strong, shatter-resistant plastic, can also be found in protective sports equipment.

Polycarbonate is often used in riding and biking helmets, helping protect riders competing in equestrian and cycling competitions. Polycarbonate sunglasses and protective visors, which provide optical clarity as well as shatter-resistance, are worn by runners and rowers, just to name a few. Polycarbonate lenses can also be found in swim goggles.

The impact of innovative chemistry is not confined to summer sports. Plastics can be vital to the performance and safety of winter athletes, like skiers and snowboarders. Plastic products’ unique combination of lightness, durability, strength and flexibility make ski boots, snowboards, and knee braces help meet high-performance demands.

To learn more about chemistry innovations, please visit http://www.americanchemistry.com/Innovation.

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