Our activities concerning Behaviour of materials and products in the environment can be loosely categorized into three major fields of interest.
Life Cycle of Materials and Products
Materials, such as used for construction, and products, used by people, interact along their entire Life Cycle – from production, via usage, to disposal – with the environment (water, soil, air). They are exposed to environmental conditions that on the long run influence the materials’ properties, the process called ageing. One example is that plastic materials often fade in colour or become brittle. By this their environmental resistance is impaired.
Age-related emission of ingredients
The reduced durability results from the change of the initial composition and is often the consequence of a slow release of ingredients such as plasticisers, stabilisers, UV screens, other chemical additives and protective surface coatings. The loss of flame retardants may cause the loss of the desired delayed ignition properties. The emission of chemicals also affects the environment, e.g. when from insulating building materials stabilisers are washed off into the underground. Products used by humans in indoor environments such as upholstered furniture, may release flame retardants into the air and polymer materials that get in contact with food may transfer substances to it, for instance monomers used for their production. The environmental impact of materials and products, in consequence, is a property that has to be evaluated along their Life Cycle.
Accelerated testing of environmental behaviour
Accelerated testing methods are employed in which we can follow the environmental behaviour qualitatively and quantitatively. For this, we simulate in testing chambers environmental conditions such as different temperatures and fluctuating air humidity. Importantly, the biological deterioration by microorganisms is part of the testing, too. We evaluate emission rates for pollutants and compare them to real-world scenarios. Measurement methods that allow for the determination of trace concentrations and the formation of transformation products are concomitantly developed. The rapid testing methods developed by BAM have predictive power and enable manufacturers to improve the safety of their materials and products. In this way, we are providing an important contribution to the improvement of the environmental sustainability of new, innovative materials and products.