This Contaminant-Absorbing Bikini Could Help Clean the Ocean

Swimming and saving the world? Now that's what we call multitasking.

Ever gone swimming and wished you could clean the water of contaminants? OK, neither had we, but that's where this futuristic-looking bikini comes in.

University of California, Riverside engineers and architecture and design firm Eray Carbajo have created the Sponge Suit: A bikini top made out of a material named Sponge, which repels water but absorbs harmful contaminants. Yeah, you read that right — toxins from the ocean are sucked right into the swimsuit you're wearing.  

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The UC Riverside team, which includes engineering professors Mihri Ozkan, PhD and Cengiz Ozkan, PhD and PhD students Daisy Patino and Hamed Bay, spent four years developing the highly porous Sponge material and also ensuring that it's eco-friendly. But is it body-friendly? Wearing contaminants sounds scary, but Dr. Cengiz Ozkan assures us it won't do any harm.

"Sponge material has a multiscale pore architecture, which helps to trap oil-like contaminants inside the Sponge. And since Sponge material dislikes water, it pushes water away," he says. "Because of this, oil-like contaminants are separated from the water and remain trapped inside."

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The Sponge Suit can absorb up to 25 times its own weight in pollutants. And although that may sound like a heavy burden to carry on your chest (or an unusual alternative to your average push-up bra) the suit might actually be lighter than your regular swimwear.

"[It's] super light to begin with... Even after collecting the contaminants, the change in weight isn't noticeable since no water gets in," says Dr. Mihri Ozkan. "Regular bikini bra pads get heavy because they absorb water, but Sponge bikini will not."

While you can't start cleaning the ocean in your swimsuit quite yet, the suit has gotten a lot of attention since it won first place at the Reshape 15 Wearable Technology Competition, so it may be available to consumers sometime soon. 

Save the ocean and sport a fashion-forward bikini? Sounds like a win-win to us.

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