It’s a cute idea: swimming in the sea and helping to clean it at the same time. That was the vision of engineer Mihri Ozkan who developed this innovative style of swimwear with her student team at University of California Riverside. The aim is to remove large amounts of waste from the sea; approximately 675 tonnes, half of it plastics, are thrown in the oceans every hour.
The bikinis and swim shorts are 3D printed and make use of so-called CleanTech materials. They contain hydrophobic, carbon-based liquids which act like a sponge for dirt. With a capacity of up to 25 times its own weight, the material absorbs oil and other chemical substances floating in water, but it repels water. The sponges are placed in small pockets of the bikini and thus, are not in direct skin contact, so as to protect the wearer.
The dirt is expelled when the sponge is heated to 1,000 degrees celcius. Then, the SpongeSuit is ready to be worn again –at least 20 more times, after this, it does not absorb any more. The students have already won the prestigious competition “Reshape 15 Wearable Technology Competition” with their prototype. Now the SpongeSuit is due to go into production – thereby making the oceans a little bit cleaner.