In the NextGen TPO project we aim at developing sustainable, safe and intelligent polymer membrane solutions for waterproofing of buildings and infrastructure, fit for the current and future needs of the construction industry. To achieve this, thermoplastic polyolefin materials (TPO) are in the centre of our attention. Sustainability and circularity are moving higher on the agenda in the construction industry. The expected growth in demand for multifunctional more advanced roof and building constructions - such as, rooftop solar systems, roof gardens contributing to biological diversity, with or without food production, and water retention systems in urban areas - will require development of new and innovative materials and systems solutions. In this highly ambitious NextGen TPO project, Protan aims at developing an innovative new product portfolio of advanced, sustainable materials that are easy to install, durable, weather/climate resilient, environmentally friendly, and 100% recyclable. The project combines demanding interdisciplinary research and development activities in the areas of materials technology, manufacturing, construction, and installation, as well as in modelling and simulation of product performance.
In 2021, Protan has installed two TPO test roofs to better understand the functionality of this material. The roofs have been instrumented with IoT-sensor technology for monitoring of temperature and moisture with associated weather data. The roof coverings have also been recorded with video camera. The roofing membranes are watertight, resilient, and robust. However, the thermal movements are substantial, and this will be a focus area in our coming work.
Throughout 2021, key members of our staff have, in close collaboration with the Norner team, built and strengthened our fundamental understanding and competence about the materials technology of TPOs. This has been an amazing journey for Protan as a knowledge-based business. For the first time, we have been able to work systematically and scientifically within a new growth area of Protan. Together with Norner, we have developed formulation prototypes that have been assessed with respect to both short-term and long-term properties. This has given us invaluable insights, forming a basis for further product design. Processing and test runs of selected designs have been initiated with subsequent analysis and fit-for-purpose assessment.
Successful innovation requires that we fully understand end-user needs, and that we are able to make important stakeholders play along. Therefore, we have mapped important trends and drivers for the future of plastics in the construction industry. Stakeholder mapping has also been started. We are very much looking forward to continuing this work with an aim to collaborate with our stakeholders and end-users to find better solutions for common challenges within the field of water proofing of buildings and infrastructure.
The NextGen TPO is a highly ambitious, key strategical endeavour for Protan. The project will deliver an innovative TPO-based product portfolio of new-to-market roof membranes, offering advanced, sustainable materials that simultaneously fulfil a range of demanding criteria for processing and end-user performance: easy to install, durable, climate-independent, environmental-friendly, 100% recyclable, and globally scalable. No such solutions exist today. The development project will require high quality, high risk and interdisciplinary R&D efforts in applied polymer research, advanced materials characterisation, process development and modelling and simulation.
The project outcome will be a direct contribution to specific UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The NextGen TPO will offer a new membrane material which is recyclable and not containing any hazardous compounds. These features are particularly addressing SDG 3, 12, 13 and 14, by ensuring good health and well-being for producers, installers and end-users, in addition to preserving the climate and life below water by promising no release of hazardous substances to the environment. Furthermore, the NextGen TPO will be engineered to reduce heat island effects in urban areas, contributing to achieve more sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11).
This project will enable Protan to establish and grow a competitive business within high-performing TPOs. Furthermore, the project will contribute to the development of a new and more sustainable business model as a material supplier to the B&I industry, which complements the current product portfolio, and responds to changing customer demands and future market trends.