November 6, 2002
NIST, Partners Cut
Ribbon on Novel Device to Predict Weathering of Building Materials Quickly
PATH-funded Instrument Provides 50 Days
of Sun Exposure in One Day
Researchers at the Commerce Department's National Institute of
Standards and Technology (NIST) and their industry and government partners
today cut the ribbon on a revolutionary device to determine quickly and
accurately the damage to polymer coatings, materials and structures
exposed to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays, temperature and humidity. The
new facility in NIST's Building and Fire Research Laboratory will help
speed the introduction of new products into the market and reduce building
To measure weathering, manufacturers currently either set their product
in the sun and watch what happens or use an indoor weathering chamber. The
outdoor method often requires multiyear iterations before a marketable
product is developed. While laboratory testing is quicker, no one has been
able to link field and laboratory exposure results, and neither approach
is very repeatable or reproducible.
The NIST SPHERE, which can accommodate more than 500 samples,
distributes UV radiation uniformly into as many as 32 specimen chambers
with independently and precisely controlled temperature and humidity
ensuring repeatability and reproducibility of test results. The device
accelerates weathering by generating controlled temperature, humidity and
UV exposure environments up to 50 times faster than outdoor weathering.
Materials exposed to the SPHERE's UV light for one day receive the
equivalent of 50 days of sunlight. The SPHERE is designed to allow rapid
testing of the same material under a wide variety of weathering
environments at the same time. For example, this device can generate
exposures similar to a Texas summer dawn, a North Dakota winter night, a
mid-summer Florida afternoon and a California sunset, plus up to 28 other
environments all at the same time.
The National Association of Home Builders estimates that Americans
spend between $65 billion and $75 billion annually on maintenance, repair
and replacement, often due to the premature failure of a material exposed
to outdoor weathering. The NIST SPHERE will make it possible for
manufacturers to rapidly develop innovative products tailored for specific
environments and will enable consumers to choose a product based not only
on cost but also on its performance life. Among NIST's partners with
Cooperative Research and Development Agreements in this project: Atlas
Electric Devices, DAP Products Inc., Degussa Construction
Systems-Americas, Dow Corning and Solvay. NIST's partners directly
supporting this work include: Department of Housing and Urban Development/
Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing; U.S. Department of
Agriculture/Forest Products Laboratory (Madison); Air Force Research
Laboratory; Federal Highway Administration; and the Smithsonian
Environmental Research Center.
The NIST SPHERE is the centerpiece of NIST's Service Life Prediction
program to develop repeatable and reproducible methods for predicting the
performance of construction materials. For further information, see http://slp.nist.gov/coatings/cslpmain.html .
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department
of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST develops and promotes
measurements, standards and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate
trade and improve the quality of life.
NIST Director Arden Bement (center) cuts ribbon with Kelly Hardcastle of Atlas Electric (left).
NIST has also released a study on the the service life of selected building elements. For more information, read "Baseline Measures for Improving Housing Durability."
Content updated on 11/15/2002
||Partnership for Advancing
Technology in Housing (PATH)
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Washington, DC 20410-0001
Telephone: 202 708-4370 Fax: 202 708-5873