This past week we
have watched the Rio 2016 Olympics unfold.
They have been nothing short of excitement, determination and bravery
among all athletes worldwide. At Applied Process we enjoy sharing those moments
and reliving the highlights together as some of our favorite athletes compete
to bring home the gold. We decided to
take a closer look at the role materials science plays in the Olympic sports
that are currently happening in Rio and even around the world.
Fencing began as a form of military training and morphed into a sport somewhere between the 14th and 15th centuries. The sport of fencing is one of only four to have been featured at every modern Olympics. There are three different swords for fencing: the foil, the epee (pronounced ep-AY), and the saber. The foil got its name because it was originally made from rolled steel foil. Today’s blades are also steel. The cheapest blades are quench and tempered medium carbon steel. These have a tendency to break due to fatigue cracking. A more expensive blade is maraging steel which offers an increased lifetime but can still fail by brittle fracture.
Weightlifting is one of the original Olympic events. As a means to measure strength and power, weightlifting was practiced by ancient Egyptians and Greeks. Today weightlifters focus on two techniques: the ‘snatch’ and the ‘clean and jerk’, which determine their place according to their total combined results. The weights used are rubber coated ASTM Grade 20 cast iron and the bars the lion weights rest on are steel.
Tennis has been a sport in the Olympics since 1988. Originally early tennis rackets were made of wood but as technology progressed so did the materials of the racket. Modern tennis rackets are made from a wide range of materials to help maximize performance. Some of these materials include a high modulus graphite and/or carbon fiber, which is used to keep the frame lightweight and stiff for increased racket head stability and performance. The graphite and carbon fibers allow for more aerodynamic shapes to be made which increases the speed in which the racket can travel through the air. Other materials that might be used in tennis rackets are titanium and tungsten, which can add stiffness where necessary. In addition, you might find Boron/Kevlar which is similar to graphite but both are lighter and stiffer. The rackets made from these are typically very durable however less forgiving than graphite or aluminum.
Shot put is another interesting sport to watch, you never know what might come out of it, and how far the shot will actually go. Typically, the men’s shot weighs 16.01 pounds and the women’s shot weighs 8.8 pounds. The scoring is based on the competitor with the longest legal throw put. The shot can be made of different kinds of materials depending on its intended use. Some of the materials used include sand, iron, cast iron, solid steel, stainless steel, brass, and synthetic materials like polyvinyl. Some of these metals are denser than others which can affect the range and speed of the shot. The shot put has been a part of the world Olympics since 1896.
Golf has made its way back into the Olympics this year after being gone for more than a century. Golf was reintroduced due to its global expansion and popularity. It’s not back permanently, though, as the International Olympic Committee only voted to reinstate golf through the 2020 Games in Tokyo, at least for now. It’s typical for golfers to have a favorite golf club they might use for a specific event. Club heads were historically made of beech, dogwood, apple, pear and persimmon woods. Today, the materials usually used for club heads are titanium, steel, graphite, boron or steel alloys.
These are just some of the ways that materials science has advanced over the years and in the Olympic games. We hope you enjoy watching the rest of the Rio 2016 Olympics!