Newton, MA —Thanks to an electronically powered racquet, even the recreational tennis novice stands a chance of tasting victory.
The i.S18 ChipSystem™racquet, a collaboration from HEAD Sports AG (Phoenix, AZ) and Continuum Control Corp. (Billerica, MA), is designed to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, providing more power than a conventional racquet.
When HEAD engineers faced the task of making tennis racquets flexible and yet able to stiffen on contact, they found the solution in the form of a piezoelectric material called intellifiber™. The material serves two purposes: to convert the ball's impact from mechanical energy into electrical energy, and to counteract that force by stiffening the racquet—both actions which occur in milliseconds, while the ball is in contact with the strings.
The vibrations that occur upon ball impact are reduced, due to the HEAD ChipSystem's electrical counterforce.
"Mechanical energy is bad energy in tennis racquets," explains Barry Charton, vice president of Continuum Control Corporation. In order to reduce the bad energy, Continuum Control added its iPower™technology to create the self-powered electronics used in the i.S18 ChipSystem. According to Charton, the combination of impact and flex in the racquet forces the intellifibers to vibrate, generating electricity. In the handle of the racquet, a microchip eliminates the vibrations and also transmits an electrical impulse back to the intellifibers via a FlexCircuit.
What results is a counterforce in the throat of the racquet within the first millisecond of ball impact, as opposed to a standard racquet that bends upon impact and remains that way until the ball leaves the strings.
Currently designed for the recreational player, as opposed to the professional due to its unfair advantage of added power, HEAD's i.S18 ChipSystem will not be available to the public until early 2001. However, already available are the company's i.S10 and i.S12 racquets, which use intellifiber technology to stiffen the throat of the racquet, but without the electrical counterforce of the ChipSystem.