At the 2008 Olympic Games in China, 14 world records were broken in swimming.
All but one of the record-breaking swimmers were wearing swimsuits, specially-designed by materials scientists, that hold their bodies in a more hydrodynamic position, while repelling water, and getting more oxygen to the muscles.
Technology is an increasingly important aspect of any training, as athletes’ progress is carefully scrutinised to monitor heartbeat, glucose levels, and recovery, to shave milliseconds off their time or add millimetres to their jump.
In the build-up to the 2012 Olympics in London, and beyond, chemistry will have a central role in making improvements to these technologies – from sensors and imaging techniques to nutrition and muscle recovery – to ensure that when competition day arrives, the athletes are in peak condition.
The British 2012 Olympic committee have set the target that all spectators will use sustainable transport to get to the Games. Our increasing demands for advances in science and technology have to be reconciled with the need to reduce the levels of energy and environmental resources that we consume, while enhancing quality of life across the world.
The chemical sciences contribute to all areas of society, from restoring damaged art and literature in museums, galleries, archives, libraries and historic buildings that surround us, to making clothes that can sense your temperature or clean themselves. Household and personal care products, sports equipment and gadgets – they all depend on new chemistry.