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3D-Printed Bathing Suit Cleans the Water As You Swim

Oct 20, 2015 12:11 PM EDT
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A 3D-printed bathing suit allows swimmers to actually clean bodies of water while they swim.  Engineers from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) created a reusable material derived from sucrose that has since been used to make a "Spongesuit." The bikini repels water while it absorbs harmful contaminants. 

"This is a super material that is not harmful to the environment and very cost effective to produce," Mihri Ozkan, an electrical engineering professor at UCR's Bourns College of Engineering, told UCR Today.

Designing this new, innovative spongy material began four years ago. Originally, researchers had intended to use the material for applications such as cleaning up oil or chemical spills or desalinizing water. Since then, an architecture and design firm, Eray Carbajo, picked up on the eco-friendly material and have developed it into wearable technology. The swimsuit designed by Eray Carbajo partners Pinar Guvenc, Inanc Eray and Gonzalo Carbago, recently won first place at the Reshape 15 Wearable Technology Competition

The team's ultra-chic design molds the sponge material into a bikini shape that acts as the "water filter." Then, 3D-printed elastomer encompasses the bathing suit to create a more sturdy structure. When testing the material, researchers discovered it can absorb up to 25 times its own weight. What's even better is the sponge material retains the absorbed materials up to 1,000 degrees Celsius. If temperatures exceed that, only then with the bathing suit release the absorbed contaminants. (Scroll to read more...)

It is important to note that storing the contaminants does not harm the swimmer. In fact, they are specifically trapped in the inner pores of the sponge material so they don't touch the skin. The sponge pad is easily replaceable and can be recycled after several swims. When testing the material, researchers at the Ozkans' UC Riverside lab demonstrated that the Sponge material can be reused up to 20 times without losing its absorbency, according to UCR Today. Aside from bathing suits, this material could be used in the form of swimming caps or wet suits also. 

"The filler amount and the allocation were identified by creating several design alternatives, considering the form and the ergonomics of the human body, while pushing the limits in translucent swimwear design," Dr. Ozkan added

Though, the application for this unique water repelling material doesn't end there. Researchers also believe it could be used in the paint that coats airplanes and satellites, or as part of electromagnetic shields for such things as unmanned aerial vehicles, according to UCR Today. 

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