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DSM metal replacement speeds Paralympians

By: Barry Copping

September 5, 2012

LONDON (Sept. 5, 10 a.m. ET) — The Dutch cycling team competing at the London Paralympics used new ultralightweight chains incorporating rollers made of Stanyl polyamide 46 material from polymer specialist DSM NV.

The chains were developed by the company as an innovation partner with the Dutch Olympic Committee and the Royal Dutch Cycling Union in collaboration with KMC, the world’s largest manufacturer of bicycle chains.

In a racing cycle the chain rollers play a vital role because they are the contact points between the sprockets and the chain, transmitting the tremendous force exerted by the rider to the wheels. The chain must be very strong, at the same time running smoothly and as free of friction as possible on the sprockets. The new chains and sprockets use Stanyl instead of steel. This means the chains are not only lighter, according to DSM, but also move with less friction, which translates into greater speed.

Paralympic cyclist Alyda Norbruis, who won a silver medal in the women's individual C1-2-3 500m time trial at the Velodrome, says of DSM’s innovation: “The chain gives me confidence and power, which makes my body feel more at ease. It gives me a great deal of balance, and the more balance, the better.”

Eelke van der Wal, the Dutch Paralympic cycling team’s coach, comments: “This is the future! It’s something that all racing cyclists will want to use at the Rio Olympics, and we’re already using it now.”

According to DSM, Stanyl polyamide 46 is already used in a wide range of industrial gear and chain systems, where its low wear, low friction and low weight properties provide customers with a more efficient and quietly running replacement for metals. It is intended to use Stanyl for the chains of “ordinary” bicycles as well, with the advantages of eliminating chain squeak and oil lubrication.

Rob van Leen, DSM’s chief innovation officer, says: “Following protective clothing made from DSM’s ultra-strong Dyneema fibre, Stanyl-based chains are another important materials innovation benefiting athletes.”

Olympic innovations

This summer, DSM presented several Olympic innovations in materials, including cycling shorts incorporating Dyneema which protect cyclists’ most vulnerable body parts in the event of a fall. DSM developed new boats in collaboration with the Dutch Rowing Federation, including the boat used by the Women’s Eight team that won a bronze medal. The development of these boats included the use of novel styrene-free resins in combination with carbon fibre, increasing hull stiffness by 25 percent as compared with conventional boats without compromising on light weight. This stiffness is important, says DSM, because in rowing, as in cycling, the aim is to translate the athletes’ energy directly into speed.