Innovations bring a maze of complexities to a sport, but elevate the performance level of an athlete and reduce the chances of injury, making sport more enjoyable for the spectators and the athletes. The world of competitive sport is highly influenced by even the minute changes in sports equipment, which could be a matter of winning or losing.
In recent times, the sports equipment industry has emerged as a sophisticated yet commercially viable hi-tech industry where advances have revolutionized sports. Additionally, various world-level championships like Olympics and World Cups have popularized the sports equipment industry up to a great extent, making it a lucrative business opportunity for public as well as private venture capitalists.
Impact of Nanotechnology on Sporting Equipments
The degree of competitiveness in sports has been remarkably impacted by nanotechnology like any other innovative idea in materials science. Within the niche of sport equipment, nanotechnology offers a number of advantages (Fig. 1) and immense potential to improve sporting equipment making athletes safer, comfortable and more agile than ever. Baseball bats, tennis and badminton racquets, hockey sticks, racing bicycles, golf balls/clubs, skis, fly-fishing rods, archery arrows, etc. are some of the sporting equipment, whose performance and durability are being improved with the help of nanotechnology (Fig. 2).
Nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs), silica nanoparticles (SNPs), nanoclays fullerenes, etc. are being incorporated into various sports equipment to improve the performance of athletes as well as equipment. Each of these nanomaterials is responsible for an added advantage such as high strength and stiffness, durability, reduced weight, abrasion resistance, etc. in sporting equipment as listed in Table 1.Various companies in the area of sporting equipment are coming up with innovative technologies/products, which include Double Core™ & BLX™ by Wilson (tennis), Air D-Fence™ & Nanolok™ by InMat (tennis), nano-CFC® by Holmenkol (skiing), N-FUSED™ by Easton (archery), NSi™ from St. Croix (fly-fishing), Nanopreme™ by Yonex (golf), etc.
Over the years, with the evolution of materials in sports equipment, there has been reduction in the weight of equipment accompanied by considerable improvement in its strength. CNTs, the most frequently used material in nano-enhanced sporting equipment have a higher specific strength and specific stiffness than other conventional materials (Fig. 3). They are 100 times stronger but 6 times lighter than steel and as stiff as diamond, which make them an ideal component for making sporting equipment where low weight and high strength are of prime importance.
Additionally, various nanocomposites incorporating CNTs are far superior in terms of strength and durability to other conventional materials used in sporting equipment. CNTs are being used to create super-strong handlebars for mountain-bikes, durable tennis racquets and ultra-lightweight bicycle frames. Many champion road-racing cyclists such as Cadel Lee Evans and Floyd Landis won various tournaments including Tour de France using bicycles having CNT incorporated plastic frames. The BMC SLC01 Pro Machine bicycles used by these cyclists were manufactured by the Swiss company, Bicycle Manufacturing Co. (BMC), which weighed just 1055 grams (size 51), but possessed 400 times greater tubular strength than steel1.
Scientists make extensive use of X-ray fluorescence to map elements in materials. However, this technique does not have the needed spatial sensitivity unless the probe is finely focused.
Scientists have now found a way to turn X-ray fluorescence into an ultra-high position-sensitive probe to measure tiny internal structures called nanostructures in thin films (Nature Communications, « Reconstruction of Evolving Nanostructures in Ultrathin Films with X-ray Waveguide Fluorescence Holography »).