Written by IEEE | August 8, 2016


Advancements in technology and the Summer Games go hand in hand, and this year is no exception.

New swimwear is making waves as the technology used to craft the suits could help athletes shave that all-important hundredth of a second off their time.

Swimsuit technology caused a huge controversy and ultimately caused a performance-enhancing suit design to be banned in 2009. The high-tech suit sparked an investigation into “technical doping,” which means gaining an advantage using enhanced equipment. These swimsuits were made of a rubber-like material that covered more of the body, which increased speed, efficiency and buoyancy.

Technology is always evolving and this year’s Summer Games will feature a new suit in the pool. Instead of the now-banned rubber fabric, the new swim gear made by Arena is called Powerskin Carbon Ultra and is made of carbon fiber. This fabric has a point that it will not stretch beyond, enabling a high level of compression. The compression is what helps the swimmers shave that time off of their swim, eliminating drag in the water.

Athlete Michael Phelps helped to design another type of swimsuit. The technology in his suit, called Aqua Infinity Fabric, has a different focus. While the high compression is important, it isn’t needed everywhere. There are panels of the tight fabric blended with flexible fabrics to make it more comfortable while maintaining a good range of motion.     

The new technology for swimsuits is a far cry from the wool bodysuits worn in the first Summer Games through the 1930s, or the cotton swimsuits that became transparent when wet during the 1960s.

For more on the technology on display underwater and above ground at the Summer Games throughout the years, check out the IEEE Technology at the Summer Games Timeline.


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