Stats: The materials of sport

Materials World magazine
4 Aug 2014

From shuttlecocks to football socks, materials science plays a vital role in the development of sport. Simon Frost tots up the scores.

Years since the earliest known use of boxing gloves, as depicted in an ancient Minoan fresco. Today, top-grain tanned leather covers the glove, because of its capacity to withstand many powerful impacts. High-density polyurethane is widely used for the inner padding, which compresses to dampen and distribute the strike force to both the punching hand and the unlucky recipient.

Goose wing feathers used in the skirt of a competition shuttlecock. Feathers from left and right wings are never combined, as the opposing tilt prevents them from overlapping consistently. For the casual badminton player, plastic or nylon shuttles are inexpensive and durable, but they lack the in-flight stability of the real thing.

The strict amount of nickel that any nickel-based alloy used in a Formula 1 car may contain. There are only 22 different materials permitted in the construction of each car.

Number of years the celluloid ball was used in table tennis. It will be replaced with a polymer version, available with and without seam, after the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, due to declining manufacture of celluloid and safety concerns over flammability. The new ball will attempt to maintain the status quo. It will still have a diameter of 40mm, but weigh slightly more than the 2.7g of its predecessor.

The optimum pH for swimming pool water – the same as that of human tears, creating minimal irritation to the eyes.

New seats manufactured using recycled polyethylene terephthalate bottles for Brazil’s Maracanã, Mineirão and National Stadium for the 2014 Football World Cup. Around 1.3m Coca-Cola bottles were collected across Brazil in preparation for the finals.

The minimum permitted weight of a road-racing bicycle – about the same as a men’s bowling ball. Carbon fibre is the most common material used for competition racing frames, favoured for its high tensile strength relative to its light weight.

To view the full list of permitted F1 materials on our blog, click here.