Designer magic sponges

Essay by qweryneo August 2006

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In the February 2006 issue of Chemistry Review, I found a relatively interesting article entitled "Designer magic sponges". The author is Andrew Parsons who is a senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, University of York. This article mainly discuss the role of chemistry in helping athletes recover at a faster pace through the use of sponges, sprays, tablets or injections. Besides that, this article also briefly touches on issue such as consuming performance-enhancing drugs.

How many times are you down at the field, enjoying your favorite game of soccer while suddenly, someone just gave you a slide tackle from the back. Before you know it, you are lying on the ground groaning in pain. Well, here comes the job of designer sprays to treat that bruise or sprained ankle of yours! The spray that you normally see qualified physiotherapists carrying are exactly the ones I am talking about.

One might question, why do these sprays have the ability to deaden the pain and reduce the swelling?

Firstly, among the ingredients found in these sprays are the hydrocarbons butane and 2-methylpropane. These alkanes have very low boiling points and when sprayed from a pressurised container onto the patient's skin, they evaporate quickly using heat from the treated surface. The patient then experiences a cooling effect.

Cuts and scratches are also inevitable when it comes to sports, in this case antiseptic sprays would come in handle. This is because it helps to provide relief by numbing and soothing the area, while preventing infection.

To make sure that cuts and abrasions are protected, a newly 'spray-on bandage' is invented. The spray contains a polymer such as PVP/VA, which forms a temporary protective coating over the injury. Hence, it is very easy to remove the bandage because the polymer is water-soluble and...