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Nanotechnology set to technologically revolutionise sport

09 Jul 2012
Engineering - an underappreciated influence on sport over the years Photo: Sheffield Hallam Centre for Sports Engineering Research

Engineering - an underappreciated influence on sport over the years Photo: Sheffield Hallam Centre for Sports Engineering Research

Advances in nanotechnology, ‘3D printing’ and biomedical engineering are set to bring about a technological revolution in sport over the next few years, according to a new report launched by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

The Sports Engineering: An Unfair Advantage? report looks at prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by the nervous system, spray-on clothing and personalised running shoes ‘3D printed’ minutes before a race as advances that elite athletes could be using within a matter of years.

To prepare for these developments and counter accusations of ‘technology doping’, the report calls for sporting regulators to work with engineers to predict the consequences a new technology might have on a sport.

Philippa Oldham, lead report author and head of manufacturing, IMechE, said: “Engineering has had an enormous, and under-appreciated, influence on sport over the past hundred years. Almost every sport, from athletics to cycling, has benefited from the introduction of new materials, techniques and tools that have helped keep them relevant and exciting."

“Over the next few years we are set to see a wave of new technology from the very cutting-edge of engineering enter sport. Yet many sporting regulators still refuse to engage with engineers to find out what effect these advances might have. It is vital for sports regulators to work with engineers to make sure these advances are introduced fairly and openly so the sporting world isn’t taken by surprise.”

As well as looking towards the future, the report examines UK sports engineering projects being run ahead of London 2012 to TeamGB athletes with cutting-edge technology. P2i, a world-leading nanotechnology firm headquartered in Oxfordshire, has developed a liquid repellent nano-coating technology that Olympic sailors will use to keep their harnesses dry this summer. BAE Systems has adapted a laser-timing system, originally created for the battlefield, for use in cyclists’ training. The system can time up to 30 cyclists simultaneously to within a millionth of a second.

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Engineering - an underappreciated influence on sport over the years Photo: Sheffield Hallam Centre for Sports Engineering Research

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