The progression of artificial grass has been continuing ever since it was first laid down at the Houston AstroDome. The product that was used back in the 1960s looks nothing like the synthetic turf that is in use today with improvements made in just about every aspect of today’s 3rd generation artificial grass.

So what makes synthetic turf a 3rd generation synthetic turf?

  • Grass fibres are 55mm or longer
  • Fibres made from polyethylene
  • Infill consisting of rubber granules, a combination of rubber granules and sand or a thermoplastic compound such as Ecofill
  • A sports grass that more closely approximates natural grass

The grass fibres of a 3rd generation synthetic turf are much longer than those of the earlier products. They are greater than 55mm and they are spread further apart with infill, either an EPDM rubber and sand combination or a more advanced infill such as EcoFill. These grass fibres are usually no longer made using polypropylene but the rather softer polyethylene. The combination of the longer grass fibres, the addition of infill and the space between the fibres means it is safer to play on, football studs will sink into the surface putting less stress on player’s joints.

The use of the term 3rd generation artificial turf originally referred to artificial turf that was used on football fields. These days it is applied to any of the newer types of artificial grass that uses the polyethylene yarn that provides the more lifelike appearance that is helping to carry the industry forward in popularity.

The Role of Infill In 3rd Generation Artificial Turf

The important factor of 3rd generation artificial turf is not only the way the surface responds to a player’s feet hitting the ground, but also the way the ball responds as it rolls along the surface. It should roll freely but it should not skate away from the person trying to control it. In other words the grass should be long enough to have an effect on the ball and the infill should act in a similar fashion to the dirt or sand that occurs naturally under the grass.

One of the newer innovations that is being used by a few of the companies producing top quality synthetic turf is the use of EcoFill. This is a manufactured product that is used instead of the rubber and sand combination. It is a product that is completely free of the risk of heavy metals or carcinogenic substances and it reacts in a manner that is far more closely related to earth.

The purpose of synthetic turf infill is primarily to ensure the grass fibres stand up in much the same way that dirt promotes the trajectory of real grass. What it should not do is provide a rebounding effect for the foot. When laying rubber granules down as an infill the effect was one of tremendous energy return when the foot struck the ground. This energy return had the effect of putting muscles and joints under tremendous stress making the body feel more tired as a result.

Pictured above is a cross section representation of one of the premier types of 3rd generation synthetic turf, MondoTurf.

One of the noted problems with earlier synthetic turf surfaces has been the high temperatures that are reached due to the turf and the rubber infill. Tests have shown that artificial turf surfaces that use EcoFill infill experience 50% less overheating than that of a surface that has been filled with black rubber granules.

Although 3rd generation synthetic grass was initially developed for the sport of football it has become so successful in its mimicry of natural grass that it is proving to be very valuable as a domestic grass. The fact that they are non-abrasive, tend not to overheat and that they provide you with a surface that can be mistaken for the real thing has led to a growing acceptance towards using it in the backyard.