Sharkskin and Skiing

Ski Suits at the Olympic level might look to the untrained observer like simply skin-tight body suits, but they’re actually quite high-tech. The job of the speed suit is to keep the skier warm without adding anything that might slow the athletes down. For the U.S. team researchers carefully analyzed different fabrics using an electron microscope to find the most aerodynamically fabric for this year’s suits. The chosen fabric is similar to sharkskin, which has tiny V-shaped ridges that reduce air resistance. (It should come as little surprise that Olympic swimmers use a similar fabric for their swimsuits.) Researchers also analyzed the course in Sochi using data from test runs done there to determine the best places to put zippers, seams, and other necessary bulk to minimize any drag.

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