If you are a sport’s fan know that, for that reason alone, you are also a chemistry fan! Today we talk about sporting goods!
In fact, sports are one of the activities who have benefited the most from the development of new materials in chemistry labs.
You will certainly have noticed that sports equipment, from mountain bikes to surfboards, is becoming lighter and stronger.
You will also have benefited from the advantages of modern sportswear, like fabrics that allow the rapid evaporation of sweat, or comfortable trainers with soles that adapts to the ground.
And we could go on: cycling helmets, tennis racquets, football leggings, boat sails, athletics tracks…And, of course, balls! Golf, tennis, bowling, volleyball, football and basketball balls.
On the basis of the emergence of all these new materials is the chemistry of synthetic polymers! Polymers (from the Greek “poli” meaning many and “mero”, meaning parts) are long molecules formed from smaller molecules, called monomers, connected to each other consecutively forming chains which can contain hundreds or thousands of monomers.
By changing the structure of the monomers, it is possible to obtain polymers with very different properties: rigid as PVC tubes, malleable as spandex fibers, anti-adherents such as Teflon, light and resistant as Kevlar and so forth.
A popular example of the use of polymer chemistry in sports comes to us through us the football. Modern footballs are made up of three essential layers:
An inner layer, right above the inner-tube, is made of cotton and polyester films. This layer determines how the ball bounces.
The second layer consists of polyurethane panels or polyethylene vinyl acetate. These panels no longer present sewn seams, for they are chemically welded to each other, contributing to a total impermeability to water.
The last layer is very important for the final quality of the ball, for it defines its resistance to dislocation in the air and the grass. It is also the one most subject to wear and therefore more demanding on the quality of materials, generally made up of a polyurethane solution.
Polymers, polymers and more polymers to go faster, reach higher and be stronger!