Materials still unbeaten out-of-doors!
Polymers aiming for a track record
The 1976 Montreal Games saw outdoor plastic surface-coatings take over from clay surfaces. These polyurethane resin surfaces, combined with rubber matting, have delivered on the performance front. Barcelona's five-star synthetic track, opened shortly before the 20th Euro 2010 Athletics Championships, is said to be the fastest track in the world.
This multilayer polymer structure, valued for being long-lasting (even after intensive use) and easy to maintain, gives athletes a level of comfort and safety that meets demanding training and high-level competition requirements. The top layer of the track, made of EPDM granules, an elastomer widely used in the sports world, makes it impervious, while the multilayer design guarantees constant anti-slip physical properties.
It also enhances the surface's elasticity performance.
The grass is always greener
Plastics are green! You don’t think so? How many litres of water would you say it takes to maintain a natural grass pitch? France’s Football Foundation says 100 billion litres of water are used every year to water the turf on French football pitches – that’s more than 3,171 litres per second.
Outdoor synthetic surfaces are much less water-intensive over time and are set to gradually become the sustainable alternative to natural grass.
These new synthetic turfs, once made of nylon, are now manufactured from polypropylene or polyethylene with a more grass-like texture.
More rarely, polyamide or polyester monofilaments can also be used for imitation grass. In all cases, the better shock absorptive properties of natural cork make it the infill material of choice for these artificial turfs.
Turf: synthetics are gaining ground
Diehards moan that these artificial surfaces are low-grade, poor substitutes for good natural grass, yet many top-flight competitions have already been played on such surfaces.Not least, field hockey at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
For football, FIFA has given its opinions on the subject and they are final. Playing competition-level football on this type of surface may be a near-possibility, but it is a very real one. These new artificial turfs have passed all quality tests with flying colours, and now rival natural turf on all points. As well as being easy to maintain, they can handle being played on multiple times a day. That’s got to be good for fans!
Synthetic surfaces also have supporters in the tennis community, where purists find them just as good as artificial clay courts.
Riding on old tyres
An innovative process has enabled a new type of sand to be developed for all-weather horse-riding arenas in the form of a non-slip layer of granulated tyre rubber bonded by a synthetic resin.
These new equestrian surfaces possess very useful mechanical properties. This type of polymer surface provides horses and riders alike with unequalled comfort thanks to its cushioning properties, allowing for greater flexibility in stride but also increased safety in case of a fall. These surfaces are more compact, and also longer-lasting, than natural sand.
These riding surfaces also generate less dust, which is an added bonus for health. Being less abrasive reduces wear and tear on horseshoes, while dispensing with the need for daily watering delivers clear environmental benefits.