The Chemistry of Rollerblading


Rollerblading is a recreational activity done in the world to ultimately replace ice skating when the conditions are not permitting it. Initially, rollerblades were created to allow off-season training for hockey players. It quickly developed into different types of activities, such as those served to improve fitness, others to train for winter sports when facilities and weather aren’t allowing one to, and of course, to have fun. Scott and Brennan Olson, two brothers from Minnesota, attempted to make the skates for their hockey team, and began constructing them in their parent’s basement. After the Olson brothers made the first “rollerblades,” in 1980, skiers, hockey players, and other winter athletes used them to train. After non-athletes joined in on the action, the Olson’s founded Rollerblading, Inc. which still exists today. Popularity of this company grew, leading to more necessary safety protocols. I chose to learn about the chemistry of rollerblades because I, like the recreational users, enjoy rollerblading around for fun. They affect me during my life because my friends and I tend to do this rather than sitting inside all day.

Composition of ...

    • Polyurethane Plastic/Foam - C25H42N2O6
      • Boots
      • Wheels
      • Lines the Boot
    • Urethane plastic - C3H7NO2
      • Braking Devices
    • Nylon plastic and cloth - C6H11NO
      • Braking Devices
      • Cloth absorbs sweat in the liner
    • Aluminum - Al
      • Bearings
      • Frames

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

    • Polyurethane

Polyurethane is formed by a reaction between isocyanate and polyols along with additives to protect it in the environment. It is a polymer composed of organic units joined by carbamate (urethane) links. Each link is combined by various chain linkers and cross extenders. It helps in the process of producing various useful products such as car seat leather, rollerblade wheels, sealants, rigid plastics, etc. Otto Bayer founded it in Leverkusen, Germany, and its first use was as an airplane cover during World War II.

    • Nylon

Nylon is a polymer plastic made up of short endlessly repeating atoms. It is created by a reaction that gives off water between Hexane and Dicarboxylic molecules. This reaction occurs when moderate heat comes together with the two starting molecules, and then water is given off in the process. Nylon has many uses, including many all over one’s house! It was initially founded to be used on wetsuits by Wallace Carothers, but it now can be used in toothbrushes, tennis rackets, rugs, fishing line, and much more.

Chemistry's Role

Nylon is made when the correct monomers join together to make a long enough chain which occurs alongside a condensation reaction. They are synthetic polymers, which means it is created in a lab. In order to successfully create them, one must use Hexane and Dicarboxylic molecules to cause the reaction that gives off water. Enough of these monomers combine to form the polymer, which in this case is a plastic made of short, endlessly repeating atoms.

Polyurethane is formed from reactions between polyols and isocyanates along with additives that protect it from the environment. They are also synthetic, like nylon. To create them, one combines a polyol alcohol with an isocyanate along with some other additives may be added due to what qualities one is trying to achieve. Additives include UV screeners and antioxidants to protect it from the environment and from sun damage.

Rollerblades are man made, clearly, and chemistry plays a part in creating them because these main components, along with others, such as aluminum, make up different parts of the rollerblades. The different sections are then put together to create the final product. Chemistry helps make the product more effective, as the nylon fabric helps keep the feet fresh by allowing air into the boots and the polyurethane plastic is highly durable, allowing it to establish sturdy wheels and light, but also effective boots.

Background Research

Rollerblades, themselves, were invented in the basement of the Olson’s house in Minnesota in 1980. The two then moved on to establishing a well known company, Rollerblading Inc, before selling it. Its headquarters are now stationed in Italy. The actual product is made by composing the different pieces with precise measurements, and then putting them together. As expected, updates have been made constantly since the initial creation of these devices. Scientifically, different materials have enhanced the efficiency. For example, the use of polyurethane plastic, rather than metal, for the wheels. This plastic is quicker and more durable, and it ultimately rolls much better. Other enhancements include the addition of nylon fabric on the inside of the boots. This fabric is lightweight and allows air to flow in and out of it, creating a much fresher design for the feet. Science has played a huge rolle in the manufacturing of this equipment, as demonstrated in almost every little piece of the rollerblade. Once put all together, the rollerblade is comfortable, yet sturdy on the foot and ankle. It has automatic filters to keep the foot temperature comfortable as well. The plastic surrounding the boot is durable and highly protective, and the wheels are very smooth, creating a more enjoyable ride with no bumps.


History of the rollerblades

Parts of the Skates

Raw Materials

Manufacturing Process,default,pg.html

Five Types of Skates

Recreational, Fitness, Roller Hockey, Racing, Urban/Street

Hardness of wheels on the shores scale

Effects of harder wheels

Different types of wheels

Effects of different compositions of wheels

Definition of Polyurethane

The reactions and different parts of it

The different forms it comes in

The main things it is used for

Three main reactive materials are Isocyanates, Polyols, and Additives

Definitions for the three materials

Bonds holding structure of polyurethane together

Difference between rigid and soft structure substance

Qualities of the polyurethane fibers

Chemical Formulas of Polyurethane, Urethane, and Nylon

Different parts of Polyurethane

How polyurethane is formed

About the Author

Charlie Klepps is a junior at Billings Senior High school. He has lettered three times in wrestling and soccer. He has also won two Montana state titles individually in wrestling. He has a 3.8 GPA throughout high school while taking all honors and AP classes offered. Activities he enjoys outside of these sports include rollerblading (obviously), skiing, and looking at pictures of puppies.