Monthly Archives: August 2012
The Chemistry and Physics of Tennis
Tennis has grown to be my favorite sport, so I found this great YouTube video of Dr. Ainissa Ramirez from Yale University explaining the science behind tennis:
Basically, modern rackets are high tech composits of carbon fibers embedded in epoxy (glue), which give them high strength and low weight. The most expensive strings are made of cow gut, but most commonly nylon is used, which is a flexible polymer.
- Nylon, a synthetic polymer used for tennis racket strings.
Strings hit the ball and create topspin, which makes the ball fall sooner than a ball without top spin. This effect is called the “Magnus effect“. This is what happens to a ball with topspin: while the ball is rotaitng, a thin layer or air around it is also rotating with it. That means that the velocity of air below it is faster than the velocity of air above it, causing it to fall sooner on the ground. That’s why you have to use top spin with your balls if you want to be too fast for your opponent.
Venus Williams usually hits a 1,200 rpm ball and Rafa Nadal 3,600 rpms. That’s faster than a revolving washing machine:-)
After reading some tennis science, I hope you agree that knowing a little bit about the chemistry and physics of tennis can really improve you as a player…! 🙂