When it comes to swimwear inventions, the typical ones involve developing new bikinis that provide enough support for larger cups sizes or creating bathing suit fabrics that don’t pill and stretch out. The latest innovation goes way beyond efforts to solve the typical swimsuit fit issues. After four years, engineers at the University of California, Riverside have developed a new type of technoogy that absorbs contaminants in water, and the design and architecture firm Eray Carbajo have turned it into a bikini.
The new material is suitably called “Sponge,” and it can absorb up to 25 times its own weight in pollutants while repelling water. Sponge will not release the material unless it is heated to a temperature exceeding 1,000 degrees Celsius or 1832 degree Fahrenheit, so you don’t have to worry about it leaking out. Sponge is a reusable material and it is actually derived from heating sucrose, a form of sugar. Mihri Ozkan, an electrical engineering professor at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, worked on developing the material. She explained in a USC article, “This is a super material that is not harmful to the environment and very cost effective to produce.” Check out the video to see the way the material functions:
The idea to turn the Sponge material into wearable technology came from Pinar Guvenc, Inanc Eray, Marco Mattia Cristofori and Gonzalo Carbajo, partners of Eray Carbajo. They worked with Ozkan and her team to develop a swimsuit. The resulting product doesn’t look like the average bikini you see in the store. It is a 3-D printed bikini with a net-like cage that conforms to the body. It is the sort of futuristic swimsuit that they would have imagined people wearing in the future in a Back to the Future movie. Check out more photos of it here.
If you are worried about all the contaminants being absorbed into something you are wearing, don’t worry, it won’t harm your skin. Sponge has a highly porous structure and it is hydrophobic. It repel water and other harmful contaminants. What pollutants do get absorbed go into the inner pores of the sponge material, so they do not touch the skin.
Sponge also isn’t a one-time use material. Lab tests showed that it is capable of being reused up to 20 times without losing its absorbency. After this point, it can then be recycled and replaced with a new one.
Sounds pretty amazing, right? The swimsuit—or Sponge Suit, as they called it—was awarded the top prize at the Reshape15: Wearable Technology Competition. There is no word on when the bathing suit will be available in stores, but mass production is not an issue. Researchers noted that the bikini will be relatively cost-effective to produce. Furthermore, the Sponge material can also be turned into other items such as swim caps and wet suits. Just think, the next time we go to the ocean, we could be helping to clean up pollutants just by swimming. Forget working on your tan or relaxing, that is a good reason to go to the beach for often.