Zurich researchers are hoping that their new highly resistant ski wax can help racers glide to victory at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
A team of researchers at the University of Applied Sciences Zurich (ZHAW)external link, in association with the wax specialists Toko, have developed a new ski wax containing a synthetic molecule that is more resistant to wear and tear.
When the artificial molecule is heated with a mercury vapour lamp, a stable bond is created with the ski base, allowing it to adhere much longer. Under ultraviolet light, the molecule reacts by releasing nitrogen which leaves a highly reactive nitrene that binds with the wax to the plastic base.
In the lab, the researchers demonstrated that their wax wears away twice as slowly as a conventional high-performance product. In ski tests, racers completing a 20-second run shaved off between 0.1-0.3 seconds from their race time, or a 1.5% improvement. Field tests with cross-country skis were also promising, especially in cold conditions.
The ZHAW wax is currently being tested at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea in biathlon, cross-country and alpine skiing events. However, the identity of the racers remains a secret.