How has the Technology Progressed Over the Years?
The current varieties of artificial turf that are on the market are unrecognisable, in terms of comfort, appearance and durability, to those earlier versions. Let’s take a look at how things have progressed.
The first artificial turf, in the 1960s, was made with nylon yarn. The pile was short – 12–15mm – and dense, and there was no infill added.
This early turf was really just green nylon outdoor carpet – it was clear it wasn’t natural grass – and the surface could become very hot and uncomfortable for athletes to play on.
Traction underfoot was also an issue, and Monsanto’s research and development team came up with a solution that both resolved that problem and addressed concerns over the direction in which the pile lay: they crimped the nylon yarn after extrusion.
This texturisation made the surface of the grass less slippy and also caused the pile to take on a more uniform appearance and direction.
In the 1970s a longer pile was introduced to artificial turf, typically measuring 20–25mm. A sand infill was used to keep the pile upright.
A common complaint was that should someone perform (for example) a sliding tackle, the sand could abrade skin, which was painful. On the plus side, however, it did help to dissipate some of the heat that could build up in the fibres.
At this time artificial grass also began to make its way into Europe. Polypropylene was introduced as an alternative to nylon – it had the benefit of being cheaper, but was less hardwearing.
Towards the end of the 1990s further advances were made. Pile grew even longer, reaching 50–70mm, and as an alternative to a sand infill, rubber crumb infill was introduced. This proved more comfortable for sportspeople. Colour and texture also improved, and artificial grass began to look even more like the real thing. This period saw a boom in the use of synthetic grass in residential and commercial settings.