Seawater covers 71 percent of Earth’s surface, so cleaning up the mess we’ve made is a mammoth task. Citizens can help with beach clean up efforts and be rewarded with anything from training and micro-loans to designer shoes. But now, an innovative new high-tech swimwear design could help swimmers remove pollution from the water, while they are in the water.
The Sponge Suit — created by Pinar Guvenc, Inanc Eray, Gonzalo Carbajo and Marco Mattia Cristofori — is an environmentally proactive swimsuit design, that recently won first prize at the 2015 Reshape Wearable Technology Competition. The eco apparel is made from an outer layer of 3D printed elasto-plastic, that is both flexible and strong, and a hydrophobic, carbon-based filler material, which acts as a sponge. In combination, the two elements enable the suit to absorb everything except water, when submerged in the ocean. Effectively the suit enables the wearer to help clean the ocean while swimming by absorbing pollutants in their surroundings. The suit weights 54 grams and can absorb up to 25 times its own weight. After multiple uses, the swimsuit can be heated to high temperatures causing it to release the materials it has absorbed and returning the suit to a liquid form, which can then be recycled and remolded into a new suit.
The design is only a prototype and a large suit-cleaning infrastructure would need to be created for it to be used en masse: the designers envision businesses similar to dry cleaning stores that would service the suits. The product has a host of obstacles to overcome, but it is an interesting first step towards thinking about how wearables could be used to help clean the environment. How else could apparel be adapted to make recreational activities more environmentally productive?
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