0 Technical Surfaces and Loughborough University Launch Academic Study into the Science Behind Artificial Sports Surface Maintenance

Nick Harris & Nick McLarenFollowing on from previous research undertaken by Cranfield and Loughborough Universities, the maintenance of artificial sports surfaces will once again be put under the microscope, in a 4-year Engineering Doctorate on 'Artificial Turf: Integrating Maintenance and Sport Surface Science'.

The study, a collaborative partnership between Technical Surfaces and Loughborough University, aims to present an objective evaluation of the accepted practices and conventional wisdom behind the maintenance of artificial sports surfaces.

The research will include analysis of the degradation, and associated loss of performance, over time of non-filled, sand-filled/dressed and 3rd Generation surfaces (and 4th Generation as they become developed), as well as the benefits and limitations of maintenance on the rates of degradation.

The relationship between degradation and play performance, and user safety, will also be investigated in relation to the performance requirements set down by the sport governing bodies. The measured data will be collected, collated and disseminated, in order to quantify the importance of maintenance to the longevity of an artificial sports surface. It is anticipated that improvements in maintenance practices will be developed along the way and thus imparted to the industry as a whole, enhancing our knowledge and understanding of the value of artificial surface maintenance.

"Much of what is known about artificial surface maintenance is wholly subjective," explains Dr. Paul Fleming, Loughborough University. "It is our intention to convert the years of experience and observations gathered by Technical Surfaces into objective measurements. There are still gaps in knowledge within the industry, and as the technology behind artificial turf construction continues to develop it is important to collect good scientific data on how these surfaces degrade and their playing performance-related properties change, and the extent to which maintenance can achieve a reduction in this inevitable degradation process. ."

Using applied academic research to help and support industry is a driving force behind the doctorate, and there are clear commercial benefits to be gained from the study, not least for Technical Surfaces. With more than 25 years' industry experience, Technical Surfaces is a company at the very forefront of artificial turf maintenance, and their client database holds detailed information on the construction, average pile heights, wear rates, infill contamination / distribution, and projected life expectancy of the surfaces of some 8,000 facilities.

The company, whose philosophy is 'Maintaining Standards', strives to deliver and improve upon best practice within the artificial turf industry, and is fully committed to the promotion of maintenance as essential to prolonging the life of artificial sports surfaces. It is the only dedicated maintenance provider amongst the prestigious members of the European Synthetic Turf Organisation (ESTO), and was the first maintenance company to sign up for - and successfully complete - the Level 2 NVQ in Sport & Play Surfaces when it was launched in 2008.

The NVQ is itself a positive development for our previously-unregulated industry, as clients increasingly expect projects that they fund to be constructed and maintained by contractors who employ qualified operatives. To complement this step towards greater regulation and standardisation, Technical Surfaces firmly believes that the industry would also benefit from scientific study and analysis, to give greater credence to the maintenance practices that are employed.

One person who would certainly agree with this sentiment is Nick McLaren, the candidate selected to conduct the research, whose own passion for the subject mirrors that of the company he is set to join:

"I am excited by the prospect of working with a well-established company, looking to improve upon Technical Surfaces' expertise and knowledge through a scientific study linked with Loughborough University. From my time within the industry [Nick has worked for the past three years as R&D Manager in the technical department at Notts Sport, questions that often arise from maintenance are 'why does it need maintaining?' often followed by 'do I really need to invest that much money, time and resource to this project?'. I find it exciting to be leading research into answering these questions. Having quantifiable evidence to back up the reality that maintenance is required is very intriguing."

For its part, Technical Surfaces believes that the outcome of this research will help to strengthen their argument that continued maintenance is important throughout the life of an artificial surface: "Our motto is 'Maintaining Standards', and is a message we've been communicating for over ten years", explains Technical Director, Jonathan Gunn.

"We understand that our customers are primarily concerned with issues of durability, player performance and safety, and these factors can vary greatly from surface to surface dependent on the maintenance that is being carried out. Experience has shown us that, when applied correctly and consistently, maintenance can significantly prolong the projected life expectancy of artificial sports surfaces, thereby helping facility owners and operators to maximise the return on their initial investment."

Loughborough is the UK's premier sports university, and is widely recognised as the world's leading sports technology research facility. Combining their academic authority with the unrivalled industry experience and raw data provided by Technical Surfaces will certainly give McLaren a solid basis from which to begin his studies, the eventual results of which look set to further improve and strengthen the artificial turf maintenance industry.

For more information on how Technical Surfaces can help restore synthetic sports surfaces to an 'as new' condition, contact us now on 08702 400 700 and ask to speak to a Technical Manager.

Technical Surfaces Limited. Standards House.
Meridian East, Meridian Business Park. Leicester LE19 1WZ
Tel: +44 (0) 8702 400700 Fax: +44 (0) 8702 400701
Email: sales@technicalsurfaces.co.uk www.technicalsurfaces.co.uk

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