As the Summer Olympics heats up this week in Beijing, so too is the controversy over how the new Speedo LZR Racer, a high-tech racing suit designed with help by NASA and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation tools from ANSYS, is propelling athletes to set new world’s records, perhaps unfairly.
Just days into the games, eight records in swimming have been broken, some by improbable margins. For example, during the men’s 4X100m relay, the record was pounded by four seconds, which is huge by racing standards. What all of the winners have in common is the fact that they were wearing the LZR Racer suit, which critics argue delivers levels of buoyancy that give swimmers an advantage akin to the “technological equivalent of doping.”
Say what they will, what the critics can’t argue about is the technological prowess of the swimsuit. Speedo’s R&D group has claimed since its February debut that it’s the “world’s fastest” swimsuit and that assertion appears to on target. The suit is made from a biometric fabric designed to emulate the hydrodynamic characteristics of shark skin. Panels of special low-drag material were laminated onto the suit at strategic drag-reducing locations, which were determined using ANSYS CFD simulation software.
Along with the suit, some say the sophisticated design of the Water Cube, where the races take place, is also aiding in this record-busting Olympic season. The pool is three meters deep compared to most racing pools, which are two meters deep—another factor that aids in speed and buoyancy, they say.