Six years ago, Fatra started a joint project with Masaryk University in Brno to obtain information on the degradation of PVC membranes in natural conditions in Antarctica. Several samples of the roof waterproofing membrane FATRAFOL 810 were placed at the Johann Gregor Mendel Research Station. In order to compare the degradation of polymers, a reference set of membranes exposed in Brno – in typical Central European conditions of a large city – is continuously monitored alongside the so-called Antarctic samples.
In December 2021, samples of the membrane were brought from Antarctica and from the roof of Brno’s Masaryk University for assessment. The sampling took place six years after their installation.
Due to the higher UV exposure in Antarctica, surface degradation can be observed in the samples, extending to a thickness of approximately 0.3 mm. Since the total thickness of the insulation membrane is around 1.5 mm, this chemical change does not affect the overall application properties of the membrane. The surface is free of visible cracks and deformations.
Samples taken from the University of Brno also show surface degradation, up to a thickness of about 0.2 mm. The entire surface of the samples is covered with contamination from released plasticizers and dust.
Overall, the samples after six years of exposure in Antarctica and Brno are without major physical changes. The chemical degradation of the surface is at approximately the same level in both samples, despite the very unfavourable conditions prevailing in Antarctica (multiple temperature changes, higher UV exposure, etc.).
The sample testing project will last 10 years. The result will then be a true picture of the degradation of PVC-based materials under natural Antarctic conditions.
The results will help to provide material know-how, but also a way for developing a methodology for laboratory evaluation of UV stability, which will ultimately lead to an informed prediction of polymer lifetime under different climatic conditions.