Wearable technology has the potential to do so much more than keep us updated to when someone likes our latest selfie. Wouldn’t it be amazing if it could do something to improve the earth around us? Part of the RESHAPE 15 wearable tech competition, a team out of the US won first place their concept that does just that. Called SpongeSuit, it is a swimsuit that utilizes 3D printing and a special nano-scale material to absorb pollutants in the water as you swim. Imagine if everybody who went swimming in an ocean, lake, or river was cleaning the water!
The designers behind the project view their swimwear as both environmentally proactive and economically sustainable. It is constructed of two parts. First is a 3D printed elasto plastic exterior shell. This is easily created and requires very little material. The second part is a nano-scale super-hydrophobic carbon material, called the Sponge. Basically this means the Sponge features different shapes and sizes of microscopic pores which allow it to separate and retain contaminants, while not absorbing water. In fact, the material is so porous, it can absorb up to 25 times its weight in contaminants. The first thing that crossed our mind when reading about the SpongeSuit was, “We don’t want that stuff getting on us!” Well, good news; the Sponge won’t release the materials unless it is heated to 1,000 degrees Celsius. At which point, processors would be able to separate out the Sponge material from the contaminants and then reprocess it into a new Sponge. The designers imagine the process one day being similar to taking your shirts to a dry cleaners. Most impressive of all is the cost; the current design weighs only 54 grams with an estimated manufacturing price of $0.15/gram (or around $8). When you compare this to the Kickstarter for the $1,000 single use bracelet that merely detects contaminates you are exposed to, it is pretty amazing.
We love the concept behind SpongeSuit and think this type of technology has huge potential. Any tech that allows people to passively clean and improve the environment is a huge win. We are still amazed at the push-back on businesses recycling or stores charging you a few cents for not bringing a reusable bag. These things require extra steps. It is clear, the less the end user needs to be involved the more likely it is to be embraced.