Jason Nikhomvan


Fastskin LZR Racer

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The Fastskin LZR Racer are a pair of high-technology swimwear manufactured by Speedo that is constructed with high-technology fabrics designed to provide an improved performance. Today, the LZR Racer is banned from competitions and is known as the world's most technically advanced swimsuit.1


The Fastskin model has a history since the 2000 Sydney Olympics where the Fastskin 1 was first introduced. It was not until the 2008 Beijing Olympics when the LZR Racer was first developed. However, during this time gap of eight-years, two other models of its kind were also released. Interestingly, the LZR Racer only had a history of one year due to new regulations made by Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) in 2009 that disallowed the suit to be used in competitions as it was considered as technology-doping.2




The evolution of the Fastskin model began in the year 2000 with the Fastskin 1. The suit made of Teflon-coated Polyurethane had small ridges designed to imitate the skin of a shark that helped support the swimmer plunge through water (image on the left illustrates the ridges on the Fastskin1).3 However, the use of small ridges were banned by FINA and by 2004, Speedo developed the Fastskin 2, a more advanced suit then it former model. Unlike the Fastkin 1, the suit was designed for various types of swimming and this time it was composed of Nylon, Polyurethane and Polyester which gave the suit a four-percent decrease in passive drag.4


In 2007, Speedo introduced the LZR Pulse fabric in their new model, the Fastskin Pro. The LZR Pulse fabric is defined as very fine microfibres of Nylon and Polyurethane in a high density weave. This gave the suit a fifteen-percent more compression compared to previous models.5

By 2008, Speedo manufactured the Fastskin LZR Racer, a suit composed of composite layers; a base layer of the LZR Pulse fabric and an upper layer of Polyurethane. Rather than the traditional sewing of the seams, the suit's seams were ultrasonically welded together which produced a smooth surface. Compared to previous models the suit provides a twenty-four percent reduction in skin drag and fifteen-percent more compression.6



In 2004, Speedo made a request to NASA for assistance in the construction of the LZR Racer. After four years of long research, approximately a hundred materials were tested before the swimsuit made its first appearance. Amongst the materials tested, the materials selected for the LZR Racer were a base layer of the LZR Pulse fabric and an upper layer of Polyurethane.7

Base Layer

The base layer of the LZR Racer is composed of the LZR Pulse fabric. A fabric defined as very fine microfibres of Polyurethane and Nylon put together in a high density weave. Both Polyurethane and Nylon are polymers which are formed when two monomers join together continuously to form a long chain called a polyamide.8

Nylon is formed when a monomer with a carboxylic acid group (-COOH) attached to each end (a dicarboxylic acid) joins together with a monomer with an amine group (-NH2) attached to each end (a diamine). In this case, Nylon is formed when an equal amount of Adipic Acid and Hexamethylenediamine react. These monomers join by bonding the Nitrogen atom with the Carbon atom to form a long chain of Nylon. For each bond made, two water molecules are also released in the reaction. A representation of this is shown in the image below.9


The rectangular box on Adipic Acid represents (CH2)4 whereas the rectangular box on the Hexamethylenediamine represents (CH2)6. Hence, the general equation for forming Nylon is;10

Adipic Acid + Hexamethylnediamine —> Nylon + Water
C6H16N2 + C6H10O4 —> C12H22O2N2 + 2 H2O

On the other hand, Polyurethane is formed when a molecule with a hydroxyl group (-OH) attached to each end (a diol) joins together with a molecule with an isocyanate group (-NCO) attached on each end (a di-isocyanate). In this case Polyurethane is formed when Ethylene Glycol (C2H6O2)11 and Methylene Dephenyl Di-Isocyanate (C15H10N2O2)12 react. A representation of this reaction is shown in the image below.


Once Polyurethane and Nylon are formed, they are then made into thin strands and are put together in a high-density weave to create the LZR Pulse fabric.

Upper Layer


Once the production of the base layer is completed, thin sheets of entirely Polyurethane are then laminated on different areas on the swimsuit for various styles of swimming e.g. panels on the quadriceps are designed for breaststroke.13

The Joining

Rather than the conventional sewing, the LZR Racer was put together using ultrasonic welding which reduced the amount of distinctive joints normally present when traditionally sewing seams. This reduced a six-percent drag on the suit and made the suit seem seamless.14

Environmental Impact

During the construction of the LZR Racer, negative impacts were made to the environment however, Speedo has made a positive contribution to strive for a reduction in their negative impacts.

Negative Impacts

When Making Nylon;
Making Nylon is highly energy-intensive as the production requires a great amount of water and energy. This is a negative factor in regards to our environment because water is one of our main energy sources and with water reducing dramatically, it can lead to droughts and an insufficient supply of water. The production of Nylon also produces an enormous amount of a green house gas named Nitrous oxide and this is considered as a negative factor because it is approximately three hundred times more powerful than Carbon which makes a major contribution to global warming that can potentially harm our environment in a negative way.15

When Making Polyurethane;
On the other hand, producing Poylurethane requires a fossil fuel called petroleum and this is considered as a negative factor towards our environment because it increases the amount of carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere. In other words, it is the leeway to global warming. Another negative factor is the fact that Polyurethane is composed of toxins. When disposing the suit, these toxins can be exerted into our atmosphere and can potentially harm our environment.16

Positive Contributions

Although there were no positive movements in regards to the environment, Speedo has admitted in their environmental policy that they are striving for improvements in their negative imacts by;

  • Complying with legislative requirements
  • Monitoring, reviewing and informing the environmental impacts made
  • Trying to use sustainable materials
  • and Protecting dangers from reaching the local and wider community17


The LZR Racer is composed of;
Nylon, which is made of the following materials

  • Hexamethylenediamine: Composed of Carbon (C), Hydrogen (H), and Nitrogen (N) atoms (C6H16N2)
  • and Adipic Acid: Composed of Carbon (C), Hydrogen (H) and Oxygen (O) atoms (C6H10O4)

Polyurethane which is made of the following materials

  • Ethylene Glycol: Composed of Carbon (C), Hydrogen (H) and Oxygen (O) atoms (C2H6O2)
  • and Methylene Diphenyl Di-isocyanate: Composed of Carbon (C), Hydrogen (H), Nitrogen (N) and Oxygen (O) atoms. (C15H10N2O2)

Macroscopic Properties

Property Definitions Use
Elasticity Elasticity is the measure of a material's capability to extend and return to its original form after being released The LZR Racer is designed to provide maximum elasticity to perfectly mould the shape of its user keeping them as comfortable as possible because discomfort can effect on the swimmer's performance.
Flexibility Flexibility is the measure of a materials's capability to adapt to various positions and return to its original form The LZR Racer is developed to be highly flexible as it is required to comprehend to the rapid movements of a swimmer during their participation in swimming. This is ideally intended to prevent any form of strain on movements which can potentially effect the swimmer's performance.
Water-Repellent Water-repellent is the measure of a material's capability to refrain against the penetration of water to a certain extent but not entirely water-proof The fabrics composed in the LZR Racer are designed to restrict the suit from being penetrated by water to a great extent allowing its user to jump in and out of the pool as dry as possible.
Body Compression Body Compression is the measure of a material's capability to prevent the movement of a body while clinging onto it as much as tight possible The LZR Racer has a high measure of body compression and is able to wrap around onto its user as tight as possible to an extent where he/she could still breathe normally. This is ideal to prevent parts of the suit sagging around which could potentially slow down the swimmer's speed in water. It also reduces the amount of muscle oscillation and skin vibration.
Chlorine-Resistant Resistance to chlorine is the measure of a material's capability to withstand the chemical substance chlorine before becoming distorted or at a quality that has lost its properties The LZR Racer is designed to prevent the penetration of chlorine by a hundred percent which is ideal for long term use as the quality of the suit does not degrade until multiple use.
Buoyancy Buoyancy is the measure of a material's capability to keep afloat in water The LZR Racer has a high measure of buoyancy which is ideally designed to keep its user in a parallel position during their participation in swimming without the effort of trying to.
Friction Friction is the measure of a material's drag across another object The LZR Racer has a very low measure of friction, in other words it has a very smooth surface that is ideally designed to reduce the amount of the suit's drag against the water during swimming.
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