Wetsuits are made mostly of neoprene, a synthetic rubber. Because neoprene is prone to being torn, it is not uncommon to see wetsuits made with some Lycra or wool woven into the fabric.
When the neoprene is fabricated, micro-bubbles of nitrogen are formed inside it. This makes the wetsuit buoyant and improves its insulation properties.
Although wetsuits are buoyant, they are no substitute for a life preserver and can serve as little more than a swimming aid. Their main use is in keeping the wearer warm in cold water.
Water is roughly 25 times more effective than air in stripping heat away from the body; wetsuits decrease the loss of body heat.
How It Works
Wetsuits work by trapping a thin layer of water between the neoprene and the skin. Because the water can only enter and exit through the narrow wetsuit openings, it is quickly warmed by body heat and adds to the neoprene's insulating qualities.
According to the May 28, 2008 Times newspaper, Hugh Bradner (who died in 2008) was both the key pioneer in developing neoprene for wetsuits, and also an important Manhattan Project researcher on the first atomic bomb.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.