This Is Plastics: Plastics Are Essential for Extreme Sports and Outdoor Exploration


Plastics Are Essential for Extreme Sports and Outdoor Exploration

Whether exploring new ocean depths, climbing the highest mountains or reaching top racing speeds, plastics provide athletes and explorers with the tools they need to succeed. New innovations in gear and equipment are dependent upon versatile and durable plastics to help athletes achieve peak performance and stay safe.


Plastics have enabled extreme athletes and adventurers to reach peak performance

The world’s oceans have remained a mystery for much of human history. Since the first scientific exploration mission in 1872, explorers have been able to map just 5 percent of largely uncharted waters—and plastics have been critical to making it possible. American undersea explorer Victor Vescovo recently reached a new milestone in ocean exploration to become the first person to dive to the deepest points of the earth’s five oceans. Vescovo used a submersible, specially designed, small vehicle to explore the ocean through acrylic viewports, or rounded windows that provide a full view of the ocean. Plastics are flexible, durable and transparent, making them an ideal material to create the rounded window necessary, capable of withstanding oceanic pressure. Additionally, plastics play a key role in the cameras necessary to document exploration missions. Plastic casing around cameras and lenses makes cameras affordable and lightweight, providing a smart choice for both amateur and professional divers.

On land, plastics have helped more adventurers than ever reach the peak of Mount Everest, the highest point above sea level on the globe. New oxygen tanks made from Kevlar fibers, a type of plastic, weigh up to 60 percent less than a comparable traditional steel or aluminum alternative, allowing climbers to lighten their loads, increasing speed and endurance. Additionally, climbers depend on the strength and stretch of nylon fabrics and polyamides in climbing ropes to allow them to reach the highest peaks without compromising safety. Finally, crampons, or traction devices attached to mountaineering or other compatible boots, are equipped with plastic anti-balling plates that help keep snow from sticking to the bottom of the crampons, allowing hikers or mountaineers to maintain traction and avoid slipping. New advances in climbing gear leverage the durability and lightweight nature of plastics, enabling hikers to withstand the elements as they reach the summit.

With extreme sports like NASCAR, plastics allow racers to reach new speeds without worries of spinning off course. Tegris, a thermoplastic composite, rests on the bottom bumpers of racecars to increase friction between the tires and the track. This durable and lightweight material prevents the cars from slipping or spinning out of control during a race, increasing speed and allowing drivers to break records. Because this material is flexible and aerodynamic, it prevents accidents without limiting mobility.

Plastics keep people safe during extreme activities

In addition to enabling high-performance exploration, plastics help keep athletes and explorers safe. When diving into the depths of the ocean or climbing Mount Everest, oxygen masks are essential to providing much-needed fresh air to the lungs, aiding in survival and promoting health and safety. Oxygen masks are often made from silicone and plastic fibers to provide comfort and protection from water or weather. Plastics are impermeable to water, ensuring oxygen masks have a strong layer of protection from outside elements while maintaining constant oxygen flow.

In addition to explorers, extreme sport athletes such as racecar drivers and BMX bike riders rely on plastics to protect them in the event of an accident. Plastics have dramatically improved the safety of essential equipment in many extreme sports by adding qualities like versatility, durability and comfort. Helmets use plastics to provide a protective barrier on the outside while maintaining shock-absorbency on the inside, also offering lightweight and comfortable wear for long periods of time. The plastic compound Thermolast K TPE is a key component of essential safety items, including mouth guards, helmets and knee pads that are temperature resistant, flexible and water and weather resistant. Similar to helmets, NASCAR uses a technology called IMPAXX, a type of thermoplastic foam that is fitted over car doors to prevent injury during an accident. With the help of plastics, extreme athletes can compete safely knowing that their equipment is strong and able to prevent injury.

Plastics enable athletes and explorers to achieve new milestones that were previously humanly inconceivable. As plastic technology continues to advance, extreme sports enthusiasts of all levels will continue to have the ability to break new records—and do so safely. Because plastics are affordable, durable and lightweight, they are an ideal choice for extreme athletes to safely tackle any challenge ahead of them.

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