A new bathing suit is capable of absorbing pollutants from the ocean as its wearer swims.
The reusable material, dubbed Sponge by its creators, is derived from heated sucrose, a naturally occurring carbohydrate that is commonly refined into table sugar. When heated, the sucrose becomes both porous and hydrophobic -- it can repel water and still store small pollutants:
Sponge is capable of absorbing 25 times its weight, but you don't have to worry about pollutants touching your skin: the material won't release them until it is heated to nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers have found that a single SpongeSuit can be heated and reused 20 times before it must be recycled.
"In the near future it is not hard to imagine facilities, much like dry cleaning locations, that collect these [SpongeSuits] to recycle the Sponge to separate any contaminants," the project's creators write in a design proposal.
SpongeSuit has been awarded first place in the Reshape 15 Wearable Technology Competition. Creator Mihri Ozkan, an electrical engineering professor at University of California-Riverside, originally began developing the product with her colleagues four years ago as a material intended to clean up oil and chemical spills.
"This is a super material that is not harmful to the environment and very cost-effective to produce," Ozkan remarks in a news release.