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April 2007 Article

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Material Science In Tennis

Jani Macari Pallis, 
Ph.D. Photo
Jani Macari Pallis, Ph.D.

Gels, materials with "memory", materials that use nanotechnology, or wick away wetness - what are they, how do they work and what impact can they have on your game?

Material science is one of the largest areas of innovation in sports engineering and technology today and not just in tennis, but also across the board in most sports. For example, in some classes of sailing the materials used are an important area of performance innovation, since the boat designs cannot vary. Each sport is unique, based in part by the sport's governing rules on equipment design and performance.

For example, in 2003 after the Sammy Sosa "corked bat" incident, a journalist contacted the Tennis Server asking for information on how something like this affected tennis. While tennis does have rules on racquets it does not have the restrictions and regulations baseball does. And while tennis balls are certified and approved, racquets are not. (However, racquets can be ruled on regarding compliance with (for example) the ITF specifications for equipment.)

Over the next couple of months we’ll explore what these materials are, the tennis equipment in which the materials are used and how the materials can affect safety, performance and comfort (and perhaps even a little evolution on design through materials).

If there are materials used in tennis equipment (strings, racquets, shoes, grips — you name it) that you are specifically interested in, please contact me and we’ll try and address them in the series on "Material Science In Tennis". Please provide the name of the material (or technology and the tennis equipment in which it is used.

Until Next Month … Jani

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This column is copyrighted by Jani Macari Pallis, Ph.D., all rights reserved.

Dr. Jani Macari Pallis is the founder and CEO of Cislunar Aerospace, Inc., an engineering and research firm in San Francisco. In addition to her engineering practice, she has led two collaborations between NASA and Cislunar, creating educational materials on the aerodynamics of sports for pre-college students and educators. As the head of NASA's "Aerodynamics in Sports" project, she has led a team of researchers investigating the aerodynamics, physics and biomechanics of tennis. The group has conducted high speed video data capture at the US Open and research of ball/court interaction, footwork, serve speeds, trajectories and ball aerodynamics. Pallis received a BS and MS from the Georgia Institute of Technology, an MS in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and a Ph.D. in mechanical and aeronautical engineering from the University of California, Davis. She is a member of the Executive Committee of The International Sports Engineering Association.

Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to Jani by using this form.


 

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