It’s an itsy bitsy dent in the ocean pollution problem, but every little bit helps!
Are you interested in benefiting the planet while enjoying your time outdoors? Thanks to a team of innovative thinkers in California, you soon could have your chance!
According to a UC Riverside press release, a team of engineers at the University of California, Riverside is partnering with the Eray/Carbajo design firm to produce a teeny tiny bikini that could make a dent in ocean pollution if enough people sport the intriguing invention.
The ‘SpongeSuit’ is made of a carbon-based material known simply as “the sponge,” and is able to repel water while absorbing harmful contaminants. The suit, which recently won first place at RESHAPE’s 2015 Wearable Technology Competition, is derived from heated sucrose, a form of sugar and it’s highly porous structure can absorb “everything but water.” Amazingly, it can hold up to 25 times its own weight.
The married engineering professors at UC Riverside, Mihri and Cengiz Ozkan, worked on developing the invention with two other researchers. Initially, the team conceived of the absorbent materials as a means to desalinate water or clean up oil and chemical spills. It was when they heard of a Wearable Technology Competition they decided to start small before using the sponge for larger architectural products.
“Why not create an environmentally proactive swimwear and clean as you swim?” Inanc Eray, founding architect at Eray/Carbajo, told The Huffington Post.
The team began by fitting the Sponge material into a 3D-printed elastic cage in the shape of a swimsuit. The finished product is just 2 millimeters thick, has an estimated surface area of 250 square centimeters, and weighs just 54 grams.
The SpongeSuit can be reused an average of 20 times before losing its absorbent qualities, says Mihri Ozkan. And once it is saturated with absorbed pollution, the material will simply stop absorbing contaminants.
In order to empty the material of the absorbed contaminants, the Sponge must be heated to a temperature of more than 1,000 degrees Celsius, or more than 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit.
That kind of heat isn’t exactly accessible to the average individual, therefore, the swimsuit’s elastic cages are designed for easy removal of the used Sponge material. Once the pad has absorbed its fill, the wearer can replace it with a new Sponge filter and recycle the old one.
For those concerned about the potential health risks, breathe easy. According to the press release, any contaminants absorbed by the SpongeSuit will not touch the wearer’s skin, since they will be trapped within the inner pores of the material. This prevents the wearer from being harmed by the concentrated levels of contaminants.
The engineers are in the process of filing a patent for the invention, and plant to mass-produce the innovative suit along with a variety of similar swimwear. Because the main precursor is sugar, the SpongeSuit line will be available to the public at a very low cost.
Said Cengiz Ozkhan:
“The Sponge material itself is very low-cost, as its main precursor is sugar. The replacement pads will be highly affordable, especially when we are talking about manufacturing in larger scale.”
The team did their best to ensure the technology not only benefits the environment but pleases the consumers who wear it. Ozkhan insists that “there is no feeling of unusual discomfort” that results from wearing a bikini that becomes increasingly dense with each swim.
As mentioned above, the team is eager to begin creating ocean-cleaning products everyone can utilize.
“On an individual level, surfboards and other swimming gears are next steps to explore. On the large scale, incorporating this technology into naval architecture will create an opportunity to create more impact,” said Eray.
Some scientists are skeptical the SpongeSuit will make much of a difference, but given the sheer magnitude of the ocean pollution problem, every little bit will help.
Would you wear a SpongeSuit to benefit the environment? Comment your thoughts below and share this article!
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