Quality Fabric Of The Month: Unlocking Athlete Potential

Garments featuring Rheon Labs’ RHEON™ energy-absorbing super polymer help
athletes perform at the top of their game.

By Rachael S. Davis, Executive Editor

Rheon Labs® originated with a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) project. Dr. Dan Plant was investigating alternatives for a foam-based material that would not explode in space when he discovered materials that behave in a non-Newtonian way, changing their behavior depending on the forces applied. After the discovery, Dr. Plant worked with a team of engineers, scientists and designers at Imperial College London for 15 years to refine the material.

The technology is known today as energy-absorbing super polymer RHEON™.

The ingredient technology is soft and flexible in its natural state, but stiffens when subjected to force. As the material intelligently strengthens in response to changes in movement, it can control the energy of any amplitude or frequency from small vibrations to life-threatening impacts, according to the company.

Dr. Plant’s interest in the world of sports engineering led him to first explore sport applications for RHEON. Supported by university partners, Rheon Labs’ Head of Design Olga Kravchenko has explored algorithmic design for more than a decade. This work helps the company generate data to create products based on an athlete’s motion. “Our technology has combined years of biomechanical research with complex chemistry in a way that will unlock a new world of athlete potential and shape a new era of performance,” said Simon Huntsman, director of Apparel at Rheon Labs. “RHEON has a unique chemistry which means it can be formed into almost endless formats,” Huntsman added.

“In apparel, RHEON film is simply heat-pressed onto base textiles to give them responsive properties. RHEON has worked primarily with synthetic knits and wovens in the early stages of our apparel category, however we have seen few compatibility issues with a range of fabrics so far. The first step of any project is to run compatibility tests on the brand’s textiles, to identify how RHEON can be applied to be most effective.”

Adidas recently launched an Adizero Control x RHEON collection featuring garments designed for elite-level runners. The garments help “athletes reduce wasted energy and maximize their running performance” by reducing unwanted muscle movements known as shearing. Computer modeling was used to determine the best positioning for strips of Rheon to best support the most important muscle groups when running. According to Rheon Labs, early test results show the material has the potential to control up to four times more energy than typical elastane-based fabrics.

This is the second Adidas apparel collection to feature RHEON. The Techfit Control x RHEON collaboration, launched earlier this year focused on tops and full-length leggings for high-intensity gym workouts and weight training.

The company believes there are almost endless applications and possibilities for the technology including vibration-dampening saddles, responsive sports bras or ballistic vests. “Adidas were very early to show interest in the RHEON material technology,” Huntsman noted. “As an ingredient brand, having partners that share our vision for the potential of RHEON is one of our key factors in deciding who we partner with. The products you see today are just the first step of that journey.”

For more information about RHEON™, contact Ross Flew, head of Sales Operations at
Rheon Labs, ross.flew@ rheonlabs.com; rheonlabs.com.

November/December 2023