tWhen Erin Hamlin took the bronze in luge at the Winter Olympics in Sochi on Tuesday — becoming the first American to win an Olympic medal in singles luge — she was driving a sled designed by Midland-based Dow Chemical Co.
tBased on a project that began two years ago, the new sled swaps out the wood kuffens, or runners, previously used by Team USA, for a more reliable material to steer the sled and hold the blades in place, says Dean Palmieri, a Dow spokesman.
t“We decided that we had to take a new approach,” Palmieri says. “We wanted to introduce some science and technology from our scientists at Dow to help them get a sled that they can rely on — one that has the performance that they need and is consistent from run to run, so they can focus on the course and their driving (instead of) some of that chatter they feel as a result of those wood kuffens.”
tWhile Dow officials say the company’s materials science team tested more than 20 different materials for the sled, using technology applied in the automotive, infrastructure, and building and construction markets, Palmieri wouldn’t reveal what material the resulting sled actually uses.
t“A lot of countries are starting to move to new materials, but it's very competitive and as a result, you can imagine a lot of the technology is proprietary,” Palmieri says. “We think we’re giving (Team USA) an edge, so we don’t want to give that (technology) away.”
tPalmieri says beyond the luge event, Dow has been an active participant in the 2014 Winter Olympics. The company’s contributions are evident in several of the event’s venues, including the Bolshoy Ice Dome, where Dow technology is used in everything from the seating to the floors. And, as the Official Carbon Partner of Sochi 2014, Dow began working with customers in Russia nearly a year ago to implement energy efficient and low carbon technologies in infrastructure, industry, and agriculture.
t“This is the first time an organizing committee has completely mitigated their carbon footprint,” Palmieri says. “We're looking forward to making those kind of sustainable contributions to the Olympic movement for years to come.”
tDow’s relationship with the Olympics goes back to 1980, when the company provided Styrofoam insulation materials for the ice arena at Lake Placid — the site of the “Miracle on Ice,” or when the USA men’s hockey team won gold.
t“It can be difficult for people to understand how chemistry is making a positive difference in their lives,” Palmieri says. “The Olympics really helps us to quantify and highlight those contributions, (showing) people how we can make a positive difference in sports and in everyday life.”
tDow officials are especially excited for the luge team relay on Thursday, Palmieri says. “It’s a new event, but we think there’s some good things to come for USA Luge.”