What is ETFE Film and Why is it of Interest to Me?
Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, known also by its acronym ETFE, is a thermoplastic fluorocarbon-based polymer (a fluoropolymer).
When ETFE membrane was first designed, it was designed to have a high level of corrosion resistance, combined with strength which covers a wide range of service temperatures. With the ability to work up to a service temperature of 155 °C, ETFE membrane, provide a versatile solution to your construction needs.
ETFE membrane is often compared to glass, however, the benefits of ETFE membrane far outweigh that of glass. When you compare ETFE film to glass, ETFE film is 1% the weight of glass. This alone makes literally the sky the limit, when it comes to architecture, as the lighter weight of ETFE membrane means that you have far more possibilities. ETFE film also allows more light through than glass, it self-cleans allowing your building to look pristine and stylish at all times. One of the other benefits is the fact ETFE membrane is environmentally friendly, as it is fully recyclable.
So what about self-cleaning? How does that work? Well, dirt on the surface of the building is “washed off” by wind and rain. This makes ETFE membranes even more environmentally friendly, meaning no extra chemicals or water are needed for their maintenance.
ETFE membrane can be produced in a number of different colors, ETFE is available in natural/transparent, white and more than 40 colors at this time.
So Where is ETFE Film Used?
Not many people know, that the Beijing National Aquatics Centre, which is affectionately known also as the "Water Cube", is the world's largest structure made of ETFE film.
ETFE film is durable, highly transparent and very lightweight in comparison to glass structures. With increasing sales, the popularity and reputation of ETFE is ever increasing. ETFE is being considered the material of choice for a number of architectural projects. From traditional skylight applications, to long span structures and building facades, ETFE film is becoming the professional's choice.
If you are looking for a low maintenance, attractive building materials, it can be hard to beat an ETFE roof for eye catching looks and impact. You only have to look at previous buildings that are already reaping the benefits of ETFE.
ETFE membrane is not a new material, it has already proven its resilience and durability. The oldest existing project, constructed utilizing NOWOFLON ET film was built in 1984. To this day, the film has performed without any faults, so the exact lifespan is yet to be determined.
Stefan Behnisch - Architect
The specifications for our new concept were met perfectly with the use of ETFE as the single layer outer foil for a double facade: light weight, innovative and visually attractive thanks to the hi-tech look of the back span. The use of ETFE was also ideal from a fireproofing stand point. ETFE is very transparent und almost impossible to rip when used in single-layer applications. The foil is light weight, structurally stable, very durable, easy to keep clean thanks to the “lotus effect” and offers an excellent cost-benefit ratio.
So Why is ETFE Membrane Better than Glass?
When you compare ETFE membrane to a glass system, the increased thermal performance is possible with a multi-layered system.
If you are using a double or triple layer pneumatic system, multiple layers of film can be welded into panels that can be inflated with low pressurized air to stabilize the film and providing the thermal property of the system.
What are the Different Ways ETFE Can be Used and Constructed?
Single Layered Application
For those look for a light weight application, ETFE can be applied in a single layered form when combined with the reinforcing components of wire cables, steel or aluminum, to ensure the ETFE retains its shape and stability.
Double or Triple Layered Application
If you need a structure with more thermal insulation and structural stability, then you can use ETFE in a double or triple layered system to form an ETFE membrane. ETFE film incorporates a pneumatic system to maintain air between 2 or 3 layers of film, which are then supported by a lightweight structure, creating inflated cushions. By utilizing a double or treble layered system you can ensure ultimate strength and durability, against high winds and loads such as snow.
Why Should We Use ETFE, What are the Benefits?
Exceptional Light Transmission - ETFE films can be highly transparent (from 90% to 95%) allowing your space to feel light and airy, when compared to traditional building materials.
Cost Effective - With the light emitting properties of ETFE, the need for indoor lighting during daylight hours is significantly reduced. This saving alone makes the ETFE incredibly cost effective when compared to its counterparts. However, one of the biggest savings is during construction itself. Due to how light ETFE is, substructure support systems and concrete foundations can be designed more efficiently.
Elasticity - With up to a 600% breaking point, ETFE films are extremely elastic, however they still remain structurally resistant.
Durability/Longevity - ETFE is resistant to degradation from exposure to environmental pollution, UV light, harsh chemicals or extreme temperature variations.
Recyclable - ETFE can be recycled, or remolded as required.
Fire Properties - ETFE Film has been rated under different national and international regulations as self-extinguishing with no burning drops.
- ETFE film is 1% the weight of glass
- ETFE membrane can have a better thermal performance than glass