Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University have pioneered a new type of tennis racket which includes a unique material that could boost player performance and confidence.

The new design has been developed by Andy Alderson, Professor of smart materials and structures in the Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI) at Sheffield Hallam University and tennis racket technology expert Dr Tom Allen from Manchester Metropolitan University, in partnership with Austrian sport equipment company Head Sport GmbH.

The racket contains auxetic material which, unlike conventional material, has the unique property of becoming thicker when stretched and thinner when squashed.

When incorporated into the racket material, it provides a number of benefits including energy absorption and vibration damping – providing a new level of feedback and optimum feel for the player.

It is the first time that a tennis manufacturer has used auxetic material within a racket and has the potential to transform the sport and perhaps even the entire sport industry.

The company has also incorporated the material into rackets made for padel, a game similar to tennis but played on a smaller court and usually in doubles.

Andy Alderson, Professor of smart materials and structures at Sheffield Hallam University said: “I am delighted that the work we have done with Head has resulted in the successful launch of the first tennis racket incorporating auxetic technology.

“This is an example of where auxetic materials, and our combined expertise in auxetics and sports engineering, are providing solutions to the next generation of sports equipment for improved performance and uptake in sports from the elite level to beginners.

“At Sheffield Hallam, our vision is to transform lives through applied research, and this is an example of how the work we do in the Industry and Innovation Research Institute is delivering research excellence and meeting the development needs of industry.”

Dr Tom Allen, senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at Manchester Metropolitan University said: “As a sports engineer, I have researched the mechanics of tennis rackets for many years. My research has especially shown that developments in new materials play a key role in improving tennis racket design.

“It is great to be working together with Head to bring about the next generation of rackets through the application of advanced materials. I hope that hearing about innovations, such as these, will inspire the next generation of sports engineers.”

Andy Alderson is an acknowledged world leader in auxetic materials research and one of five members of MERI recently identified in the top 2% of scientists in their respective disciplines in a peer-reviewed citation metrics study published by Stanford University.

Dr Tom Allen is a global expert on tennis racket technology, with research activity focussed on the effect of engineering and technology on sport.