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Use Booster, Speed Glue, Tuner in Table Tennis

table tennis booster on Chinese rubber

Welcome to the Ping Sunday table tennis blog of EmRatThich: a place to learn table tennis correctly and with fun. I’m a table tennis coach in a small club in France. During my spare time in the weekend, I create videos to share with you my own experiences about table tennis. That’s why these videos are called as “Ping Sunday” (Ping Pong Tutorial on Sunday).

Today, I talk about using the booster, speed glue, tuner in table tennis. Boosting rubbers, especially forChinese table tennis rubbers are very common. Not only professional table tennis players, but also amateurs boost or tune their rubbers.

What is Speed Glue?

You may hear of “Speed Glue”.  Speed glue is the glue that is used to fix the rubber to the racket. But it’s not the normal glue. Speed glue contains a lot of VOC (Volatile organic compound). It’s a mixture of 40% Cyclohexane, 50% Acetate Butyl, and 6% natural rubber. It may also have the benzene rings and N-hexane.

Why table tennis players use Speed Glue?

Speed glue contains high volatile solvent vapors which make the sponge of the rubber expand. This stretches the rubber giving it a “high tension”. It’s like adding the “trampoline”, make the rubber become more bouncy. The speed of the ball will increase about 10%. But the most important is the spin increase: up to 20%. The effect will last between 3-5 hours. Then it would wear off and the extra speed would be lost because the VOC gas has escaped away from the sponge.

Is using Speed Glue safe?

If you play table tennis before 2007-2008. You would remember that at tournaments hundreds of kids lining the corridors of the sports hall, “gluing up” their rackets and inhaling the fumes. The hall is full of smelly organic compounds. Everybody just wants to get the fastest racket in the world. Once you started, it was impossible to stop as if you didn’t do it your racket would feel incredibly slow.

ITTF decided to ban Speed Glue in September 2007 due to health concerns. The date had been moved back to 1 September 2008. However, after an unconfirmed health incident in Japan, ITTF banned immediately using Speed Glue in 2007.

ITTF is right. This is the composition of the VOC compounds in Speed Glue: cyclohexane, n-hexane, benzene, toluene. Do you know what does it mean, this pictogram? It’s is Carcinogen pictogram.

Benzene (and Toluene) in the Table Tennis Speed Glue cause cancer!

Benzene (and Toluene) in the Table Tennis Speed Glue cause cancer!

Toluene is highly toxic

Toluene is highly toxic

They not only contain hazardous vapors, but also

GHS08: Health hazard: Carcinogenicity

Pictogram “Health hazard” of the substance in the Speed Glue: Carcinogenicity

  • Carcinogen (a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue)
  • Mutagenicity (cause mutations (genetic alterations)
  • Reproductive toxicity (effects on sexual function)
  • Target Organ Toxicity

Don’t inhale the vapors from the Speed Glue, because it is aspiration hazard, and organ toxicity.

What is table tennis booster?

Since Speed Glue is banned completely. ITTF apply the ENEZ chamber test box to detect the small amount of VOC released from the player’s racket. Table tennis players always want to boost, to tune their racket to have a better effect. Some players tried baby oil, paraffin oil, olive oil and synthetic motor oil, but it didn’t work great. And then, here comes the booster.

ENEZ device is the device has been designed for the time after the ban of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by the ITTF has become effective to test rackets in tournaments whether they have been prepared with VOCs systematically.

It’s called as “booster”, “optimizers”, “expanders” or “tuners”, appeared at the end of 2007. These products applied to the sponge of the rubber to increase its thickness and give more speed and rotation to the ball, not as much as the “Speed Glue” but not far. Booster contains low volatile compounds mixed with some chemical oils. The booster is more viscous and absorbs slowly into the rubber sponge. Therefore, the “boosting effect” of the booster will last up to 3-4 weeks.

Before 2005, Chinese National Team (Wang Liqin, Kong Linghui, and others) used TSP Noriko as the speed glue. However, since speed glue is banned, they are using Booster now. The 3 most popular in table tennis are (considered as the best table tennis boosters): Haifu booster, Dianchi Booster, and Falco Tempo Long Booster.

haifu booster

haifu seamon booster

dianchi table tennis booster

dianchi table tennis booster

Falco-Tempo-Long-Booster

Falco-Tempo-Long-Booster

You can buy the Falco Tempo Long Booster on eBay (about US $13), Dianchi booster is expensive (£51 for 250mL, shipped from Hongkong) and Haifu Seamon Booster (about $25).

Booster is legal or not?

Using booster, tuners, expanders and speed glue in illegal in table tennis.

ITTF had stated:

Rule 2.4.7: The covering material should be used as it has been authorised by the ITTF without any physical, chemical or other treatment, changing or modifying playing properties, friction, outlook, colour, structure, surface, etc. 

Based on the rule, using booster will modify the playing properties of the rubbers. So you are not allowed to use the booster, chemical treatment in the official competitions.

However, using a factory tuned rubber is allowed by ITTF. That means you can’t boost the table tennis rubber yourself, but you can buy a pre-tuned factory rubber. So if you have your own factory or your own rubber brand, you can use the so-called “pre-tuned” or “factory tuned” rubber. That’s why nowadays, there are many Factory Tuned or Neo version of Double Happiness DHS rubbers.

If you are the professional players and is sponsored by a table tennis company. You can ask them to boost and tune the rubber to your desired level. So until now, there are some tricks about using the booster in table tennis. The borderline of legal or illegal is not very clear.

Is Using table tennis booster detectable?

Booster contains the extremely low evaporation oil. The VOC rate is very low compared to the ITTF detection limit (5ppm). So until now, using the booster is not detectable.

To prepare for the Olympic Tokyo 2020, the Japanese Table Tennis Association (JTTA) is working with the Olympics Committee to develop the new protocol to control the racket. This action is to fight the using of the booster of Chinese table tennis players. Everyone knows that Top Chinese players use the booster, but it’s not detectable. Amateur levels who play Chinese table tennis rubbers also use boosters. Since the using table tennis boosters are not detectable by the instruments used by the ITTF, there is no risk of being disqualified.

For me, I can easily know if a player boosts his rubber or not. Using booster or speed glue will make the sponge expanded. When you hit the ball, the sound is much louder, and the sound is like “bap, bap” (high pitch noise). So using the booster is detectable by human experiences.

Why Chinese players use the booster?

During the China Trials for WTTC 2011, Ma Lin is caught using the booster in his hotel room in the CCTV5 reportage.

ma lin boosting national Hurricane 3 with Haifu booster

Ma Lin is boosting his rubber with Haifu booster

There is also the footage shows that Wang Liqin, Fan Zhendong was using the Racket control tester of ITTF. They want to make sure that their tuned Chinese table tennis rubber will pass the test.

Wang Liqin personal racket checked with the VOC chamber test box

Wang Liqin’s personal racket checked with the VOC detector box of ITTF

Booster has a very low VOC rate. You just only need to air your racket several hours after applying the booster. Then check your racket with the VOC detector box to verify again.

Chinese table tennis rubber has a dense and very hard sponge. Hard sponge ensures that the power from the stroke is completely transferred to the ball. However, a very hard sponge is not easy to play. Chinese rubber needs to be “break in” before using in the competition. “Break in” is to make the sponge a little softer, less deadly, more elastic. And the best way to “break in” is using the booster. The booster will expand the sponge, inject the “artificial tensor” to the hard sponge. The sponge is now more elastic, 3-4 degree softer. There are many advantages: the sound is louder, higher speed, and higher spin. In conclusion, Chinese table tennis rubber is not very effective without using boosters. That’s the reason why Chinese table tennis players, not only professional level but also amateur level, use the booster to tune their Chinese rubbers.

How Chinese players use the table tennis booster?

Using table tennis booster to expand the sponge of the rubber is easy. In general, there are several steps to apply, to use the booster, tuners:

  • Before gluing, apply 1 to 2 layer of the booster to the sponge only. The booster will absorb slower to the sponge of the rubber. However, the boosting effect lasts longer than the speed glue. Wait for the booster absorb into the sponge for 6-10 hours. The sponge will expand because of the chemical substance, so it will make a dome. This is normal. This is the way you introduce the artificial “tension” to the sponge.
  • Don’t apply more than 3 layers. If you apply too much booster, your rubber will curve too much and it’s very difficult to glue the rubber now. The sponge is also too mushy. You will lose the power to your shots.
  • The booster will make the sponge softer to 3-4 degree. That’s why Chinese player always wants to buy the harder version rubber, to use with the booster. If you can hit very hard, and want to play with 39-degree Chinese hardness on your Forehand. Buy 41-42 degree.
  • Chinese players also prefer a thinner version. They prefer 2.10mm to 2.15mm than the 2.2mm and 2.3 mm (MAX). Because thinner sponge offers more consistent shots, and thinner sponge also expands easier with the booster.

Is using booster harmful?

Unlike the speed glue which contains VOC, booster contains mostly oil and is nearly VOC free. Some peoples claim that booster is not harmful. However, when I open the bottle of Falco Long Booster, I can feel the sweet smell of the oil. I said to myself “Oh, shit!” and quickly took a mask. The sweet smell from the booster is very close to the smell of synthesized petrol oil that I’ve known.

Please note: Natural oil like olive oil, colza oil is harmless. But chemical oil derived from petrol is toxic.

Chemical Glue has Carcinogen pictogram

Chemical Glue has Carcinogen pictogram

The composition of the booster:

  • Tridecane C13H28: alkane hydrocarbon, Colourless liquid, Odor gasoline-like, combustible liquids, used in various fuels and solvents in industry.
  • As in the petroleum industry, the oil will contain additives and derivatives. In the booster, there is also another hydrocarbon (C10 – C14),  Tetradecane, Decane and Cyclohexane (the same component in speed glue), and Trichloroacetic.
  • Trichloroacetic acid is considered a poison. May be fatal if absorbed. Very corrosive – causes severe burns.
  • Dodecane is considered a harmful component. It can cause damage to the lungs if absorbed.
  • Cyclohexane can cause cancer.
n-hexane is found in Booster

n-hexane is found in Booster

Cyclohexane in booster can cause cancer

Cyclohexane in booster can cause cancer

So even table tennis booster is nearly VOC free, but still very harmful for your health. In industry or in the chemical laboratory, they manipulate this product with the mask and the gloves. But you, table tennis player, use your hand with the brush, apply these boosters to your rubbers every 3 months. You also let it dry in your living room during 24h, and inhale these “sweet smell”.

Should I tune, boost my rubbers in table tennis?

My advice for you to use or not to use table tennis booster. What is the purpose of your table tennis?

If you play table tennis to earn your life like the professional players, you have no choice. A little disadvantage can alter the result of the match. You can feel less confident. It’s like “If you can’t beat them, join them”.

If you play table tennis to be healthy, for fun. Stay away from the booster. You don’t play for money. You get more risk from the hazardous effect than the reward of using the booster.

Remember: You need to distinguish these 2 pictograms. The first one is “Skull and Crossbones = Toxic”. Like being exposed to acid, the effect can be seen right after. You know it and can treat it soon. But the second one is “Health Hazard = Carcinogen”. The effect is not easily discovered after exposure. But 10 years, or even 20 years later, it causes the cancer. But it’s too late to cure.

Listen to me. If you are the amateur players, play safe with your own health. Don’t use the booster. If you play Chinese rubbers, use the “physical approach” to break in the sponge. Glue it correctly, hit very hard during 2 weeks, and then you can have an optimal hardness range that you want.

That’s it for this Ping Sunday. It’s 1:00 a.m morning in France.

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Bests, coach EmRatThich.

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