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Penn State University Testing Debunks “Cooling Technologies”

How hot does artificial turf get? How can we cool artificial turf? These two important questions were recently answered by Tom Serensits, Manager of Penn State University’s Sports Surface Research Center in the June 2011 issue of SportsTurf Magazine in an article titled “Is there any way to cool synthetic turf?”

How hot does artificial turf get?

While some reports have produced temperatures upwards of 200 °F at the surface we know that credible research about the heat effect on artificial turf tells a different story. Connecticut based firm Milone & MacBroom has done extensive work on understanding the relationship between heat and artificial turf. Their December 2008 report titled “Evaluation of the Environmental Effects of Synthetic Turf Athletic Fields” concluded that at 2 feet above the surface, the average temperature difference between artificial turf and natural grass was 4 degrees Fahrenheit. At 5 feet above the surface, the average temperature difference between the two surfaces was 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit. The complete Milone & MacBroom report can be found here:

How can we cool artificial turf?

We are aware that some artificial turf fields are irrigated to help reduce heat, Serensits noted that this solution is temporary (fields rebound after 20 minutes) and that the watering effect only cools to about a 10 degree difference. So, the question begs, is there a “cooler” artificial turf option? Various suppliers make claims about their ability to cool their fields by up to 20%. Challenging these claims, Penn State University’s Sports Surface Research Center conducted testing on the best available “cooling” technology.

So, while the Milone & MacBroom report dispels the majority of the issues related to heat and artificial turf, some manufacturers and suppliers to the industry have invested heavily in their marketing to convince clients that heat is indeed an issue and that they have the solution! Specifically, Mondo has made claims that their Ecofill infill system provides “50% less overheating versus traditional black rubber granules.” Astroturf makes similar claims regarding their “Astroflect” fiber technology, claiming that it “significantly reduces surface temperature.”

Testing disproved both claims with the following results: 

  • There was no statistical difference between green infilled turf with “Ecofill” and green infilled turf with “Black Rubber”.
  • When comparing the three green fibers used in the study, both FieldTurf fibers (Duraspine Pro and Revolution) and AstroTurf’s AstroFlect did not statistically differ from one another.

Serensits was clear to point out that “While it is valuable to examine the influence of synthetic turf components on surface temperature individually, what really matters is the effects of these components after they are combined in turf systems. In our study, any effect of fiber color was essentially negated with the addition of black crumb rubber infill (Table 1).” As a result, “It did not matter whether the fibers were white or black—surface temperature was essentially the same for any fiber color tested. AstroTurf’s AstroFlect was not statistically different from FieldTurf Duraspine Pro fibers (green) that contained either TPE, green rubber, or tan rubber, even though it trended about four degrees cooler.”

Serensits concluded that “As of right now, it is obvious that there is no “magic bullet” available to dramatically lower the surface temperature of synthetic turf.  Reductions of five or even ten degrees offer little comfort when temperatures can still exceed 150° F. Until temperatures can be reduced by at least 20-30 degrees for an extended period of time, surface temperature will remain a major issue on synthetic turf fields.”

You can read the entire article from the June 2011 issue of SportsTurf Magazine here: