Barry Bixler is an American aerospace engineer who has made two significant contributions to modern sport science: first as the developer of a computer simulation used to study swimming strokes and second in the analysis and testing required in the development of the Speedo full body swim suits now worn by elite level racers.
Computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, is the name of the software and related processes developed by Bixler to create effective simulations of swimming strokes. The purpose of CFD is to assist coaches and swimmers in developing optimal efficiency of the swim stroke. The previous methods used to analyze a swim stroke required expensive and time consuming physical simulations, using apparatuses such as wind tunnels and specially constructed pools. CFD is a sophisticated computer model that can account for variables such as hand and arm position, the angle of entry of the swimmer's stroke into the water, and water turbulence. The animation involved in CFD can also take into account the individual contours of a swimmer's body in the analysis. Since 2000 the United States Olympic swim team has made extensive use of the Bixler CFD product in the training of its athletes.
The contributions of Bixler to the development of full-body swimsuits are natural extensions of his professional career in aerospace engineering. Bixler devoted considerable research to the effect of the drag forces exerted by water upon swim racers. Bixler sought to create a design that would reduce the amount of time that individual particles of water remain in contact with the swimmer's body as the swimmer moves through the water. The shorter the time that water contacts the swimsuit surface, the less drag force is experienced. In elite swim competitions, where races are often decided by fractions of seconds, such technological applications have the potential to significantly influence the outcome of the race.
Bixler and other researchers developed the idea of a cross-sectional ridge on the swim suit, designed to push the water in contact with the swimsuit away from the swimmer; this technology was incorporated into the Speedo Fastskin FSII in 2004; the technology is often compared with the skin of a shark, as the Fastskin surface is manufactured with similar contours, ridges known as denticles.
The Speedo swimsuit has received significant international acclaim in the international swimming community. Bixler was recognized as contributing to one of "America's 100 Best Innovations" for 2004.