By Seth Augenstein / Laboratory Equipment / Oct. 14, 2015
Style and function don’t always dictate fashion. But being environmentally aware is almost always de rigueur.
A bikini developed by a team at the University of California, Riverside is made of a material that repels water but absorbs harmful contaminants – meaning a day at the beach can also be a public service.
It’s turning some heads in competitions already.
“This is a super material that is not harmful to the environment and very cost effective to produce,” said Mihri Ozkan, professor of electrical engineering at the school’s Bourns College of Engineering.
The Sponge material is made from a heated form of sugar. Through the chemical change, it becomes hydrophobic. It repels water while absorbing other materials.
Ozkan and her husband Cengiz Ozkan, another engineer at the school, began developing the material four years ago for potential applications in cleaning up spills of oil or other chemicals, or even desalinizing water. Their patents are pending for the material and suit.
The idea for the swimsuit came from personnel at the architecture and design firm Eray Carbajo, based in New York City and Istanbul.
The 3-D printed frame of the bikini made of elastomers, is filled in with the Sponge material, making a full two-piece woman’s bathing suit. The Sponge material can absorb 25 times its own weight, and is safe to the wearer, since it doesn’t release the compounds unless it’s heated to 1,000 degrees Celsius, say the scientists. The Sponge material can also be used up to 20 times without losing its absorbency.
The used materials are also recyclable.
The design just won first place at the Reshape 15 Wearable Technology Competition. The design will also be presented at the Maker Faire expo in Italy this week.
The Ozkans say the material is also moldable into other shapes and potentially-wearable uses.