Artificial turf commonly referred to as Astroturf is man-made fiber for use in fields of play. The name Astroturf is actually a company which is associated with inventing and popularizing use of artificial turf. This has seen Astroturf being used as a generic name for all artificial turf.
In 1965, two entrepreneurs of Monsanto Industries, Faria J. and Wright R. filed for a patent for Astroturf which was issued in 1967. This marked the birth of Astroturf which has grown in its use on play grounds replacing the traditional natural grass turf. It has been 59 years now and almost each part of the world you go, you will see the artificial turf being used. That is a remarkable growth over a relatively short period of time. So how did it all start?
Due to the challenges of natural grass turf in fields such as water logging, there was a need to find a “carpet” to solve these shortcomings of grass turf. In indoor stadiums, it was a challenge for the stadiums to grow natural healthy grass since grass needed sunlight. There was need to use a different kind of turf that wouldn’t need sunlight. One of Monsanto Industries subsidiaries, Chemstrand Company, started researching on a carpet for play fields. Luck was on their side as at that time Ford Foundation was researching on how to improve fitness in young people. Ford Foundation was impressed by Chemstrand efforts in making artificial fiber and they encouraged and supported their research.
The first major installation of astroturf was done in 1964 in Moses Brown School. This was still in piloting to test its acceptance by the public and if it could be successfully used to replace natural grass on sports ground. The results were remarkable. This led Astroturf to being installed in the Astrodome in 1965 which was hosting AFL football season games. This was the breakthrough Astroturf needed to get as players, fans and journalists from the whole country were able to test it.
After Faria and Wright got the patent for Astroturf in 1967, they worked tirelessly in improving the turf through research to offer better turf which each new release following feedbacks collected from users. They still operated under Chemstrand Company up to 1986 when a new company was formed and registered under the name Astroturf Industries.
Artificial turf is usually categorized by the technology used to make it. Each of these categories is referred to as a generation. So far we have had the first, second and now we are on the third artificial turf generation and the trend is expected to continue in future.
The first generation artificial turf was used in the 60s and 70s. It was made of polypropylene. They were widely used in baseball and football sports field in the US and exported to Europe in the 70s. The tufts of these turfs were closely packed
The second generation Astroturf came in use in the late 1970s. In this generation, sand was used in making the turfs. The use of the sand was stability when playing. This was advantageous for players as the ball wouldn’t bounce awkwardly as it did in the previous generation. They were able to play more easily on a flatter and firmer ground. This turf was used for a quite good deal of time through 80s up to mid 90s when a new turf was introduced.
The Third Generation artificial turf is made of polyethylene to replace polypropylene in the previous generation. It also has ground rubber in it to make it softer and even flatter. Its tufts are longer and widely spaced than in the second generation turfs. The third generation artificial turf has seen much wider acceptance in more sports field with soccer fields being installed with it.
Going to the future we expect more generations of artificial turfs to be produced and installed in stadiums as more and more companies engage in the business of artificial turfs bringing with them new technologies.