Fluid Technology – The science of swimming
First they were developed with great effort and expense, but beginning in 2010 they are to be banned: the high-tech swimsuits that helped athletes set several new world records a few days ago at the swimming world championships in Rome.
We wanted to know what the secrets of these swimsuits are and how much difference they really make in the competition for records and medals. Researchers in Leipzig have studied this question scientifically in Europe’s most modern swimming canal.
At the counter-current facility at the Institute for Training Science, swimmers work hard just to stay where they are. A large number of cameras film their crawl, breast-stroke, or butterfly stroke and display the resulting turbulence in the water. With this apparatus, the researchers were able to scientifically prove what swimmers have long insisted: that the high-tech swimsuits really do make a swimmer faster.
A whole series of physical effects, some of them copied from nature, play a role in this. Some swimsuits have a ribbed surface structure, which lowers current resistance; such suits mimic the skin of a shark. Other swimsuits press the athlete into the streamlined form of a penguin or dolphin. Many things have been tried, with one end in view: shaving a couple of tenths of a second from the athlete’s time.