How do LEDs Work: The Science of Saving Money In Your Dome
The great thing about domes is that they help reduce energy and carbon footprints. Bubbles do this by reducing the materials needed for an indoor facility, and making maximum use of available space. Another way that air structures help the environment is with LED lights.
We’ve talked about LED lights before, including why they haven’t seen much use until now, and why they seem to be popping up everywhere now, but today we’re taking a step back, putting back on our science hats, and looking at how LED lights work.
To begin to understand LEDs, we should go back to basics and look at how electricity works. Electricity is movement of energy. When a charge exists, it means that there is more energy in one area than there is in another. If given the opportunity, this charge will flow in the direction of least resistance.
You can think of it in the same way you think of water. If you have a bucket of water and pour it on the ground, it will flow in the direction of gravity, taking the path of least resistance. Water will flow in, or create, a groove that demonstrates this path of least resistance.
Electricity is much the same and flows from a high-energy area to a low energy area in the simplest path. When electric current is able to flow well through something, that material is known as a conductor. If a material stops the flow of electricity, it is an insulator. Simple, right?
Well there also exists another type of material that isn’t quite a conductor and isn’t quite an insulator. A material can appear to be an insulator until the current increases to such a point where it becomes a conductor. Materials that have a tipping point like this are called semi-conductors.
LEDs are made using a special semi-conductor materials called p-type and n-type silicon.
Using this principle of semiconductors, the two types of silicon can be combined to create what is called a junction diode. Simply put, a semiconductor diode allows conduction in one way and when the current reaches a certain point, the electrons activate a release of energy.
What’s unique about LEDs is that this release of energy is pretty much only in the form of photons, or light. This means that no energy is lost as heat, sound, or movement.
Makes sense? If not, here’s a pretty good link that explains it in a bit more detail.
As far as dome owners need to know, LED lights are bright and use up much less electricity than typical lights. While domes are naturally relatively easy to light up because of the shape and white colour of the inside walls, sports like soccer and ultimate Frisbee need lots of light. The closer we can get to the brightness of the outdoors during the day, the better it is for athletes to focus on their sport.
That’s why LEDs are the only way to go. By being brighter, lighter, and smaller than other types of lights, it’s possible to light up your dome as much as possible, without spending more money.
Pretty much every indoor sport facility has some form of artificial turf. There’s nothing like playing soccer or lacrosse on the real thing, but newer turf technologies make it possible to get pretty close. Last week we looked at how turf is made, but that’s only half of the story to getting fake grass that simulates the feeling of the real thing. The other half is in the installation.
You might be thinking that it’s a relatively straightforward process for laying turf, but there is an art and technique to it which means you’re best bet is to hire professional installers to create your indoor turf space.
The first step for any turf install is planning. Just like any other large project, planning is crucial. To make most efficient use of time and materials, the entire area needs to be mapped and measured. Once you have a blueprint for the area, work is ready to begin.
The next step is to prepare the surface. Synthetic turf usually replaces growing grass, so first the layer of grass needs to be cut off. The top layer of soil is then dug down a little to remove as much plant material as possible, then a weed suppressing membrane is laid down.
On top of the membrane, it’s time to build the surface back up, starting with a layer of crushed rock. The crushed rock provides a solid base that still allows water to percolate down. On top of the rock goes a layer of soil or sand which is then levelled to create a nice flat surface. Sandwiched on top then goes a shock absorbent material, important for play surfaces where players will be running—or perhaps falling.
Now we get to actually laying down the turf. It’s a simple process when the turf is laying out straight, the tricky part is when you hit an obstacle and an irregular cut is needed. This might be at a goal post, a curved wall, or maybe a line marker. Carefully cutting away the excess needs a steady, practiced hand!
Once the turf is laid out, it needs to be fastened into place using nails or spikes. It’s important to make sure the top of each nail is hidden deep within the grass.
Finally, silica sand is sprinkled directly on top of the turf then swept in to let it settle deep within the grass. You’ll never see this sand, but it acts to weigh down the turf and secure it in place.
After this, the turf is ready to be played on! Of course, soccer or football fields will still need lines painted to be ready for gameplay. The turf surface, though, should feel pretty close to the real thing. Of course, it won’t be exactly like an actual grass surface but the benefits of being able to play indoors during the winter as well as the reduced maintenance quickly outweighs the slight change. If you’d like to learn more about artificial turf surfaces in indoor sport domes, don’t hesitate to contact us to ask!
Feeling chilly? It’s that time of year again when the mercury drops to points that you’d forgotten existed, and you do your best to stay in the warm indoors for as long as possible. Air domes, like any indoor facility, are best when they offer a nice warm environment to play in.
Raising the temperature is easy enough with the use of heaters, but keeping the heat in is another matter. Air domes lacks something that many structures take for granted: thick heavy walls. While they do take a long time to build, thick brick and concrete walls do have the advantage over fabric walls when it comes to keeping in the heat.
Luckily, there is a solution for air domes. Insulation. No, not that fluffy pink stuff you put in the walls of your house—air dome insulation is a bit more unique. Air dome insulation needs to be light enough that it can be held up with the force of air that holds up the walls and thin enough that it will fit in between the layers of fabric that make up the dome walls.
So what can we use to insulate a bubble for the winter?
To solve the unique needs of insulating an air dome, The Farley Group uses something called double layer reflective insulation. Manufactured by a company called rFOIL, the reflective insulation is light, thin, and significantly reduces the energy needs required to heat an area as large as that of an air dome sports facility.
rFoil Reflective Insulation appears simple enough. It’s made up of two layers of polyethylene bubbles, sandwiched between two layers of aluminum.
It works by reducing the amount of radiant heat transfer. The reflective aluminum surface essentially bounces the heat back into the dome. For a description of radiant heat, have a look at an older blog that we wrote that explains the science behind radiant heat transfer.
Other key benefits of rFOIL Reflective insulation, besides it’s insulation value, are:
- It is unaffected by moisture. Condensation that forms on the surface is controlled and doesn’t weigh down the sheets or grow mold
- It serves as a radiant barrier, as well as a vaper barrier. One product to do it all.
- It’s available in different formats for multiple different uses.
Pretty cool stuff.
You might be wondering, “Well that’s awesome for domes, but what else can reflective insulation do?” The answer is, plenty! Other uses for rFOIL’s product include: crawlspaces, basement insulation, residential insulation, and cathedral ceilings. Anywhere that a light, moisture resistant, easy-to-use insulation solution is needed, it may be a good fit.
To learn more about insulating your air supported dome, or for more info on reflective insulation, call The Farley Group! We’re ready to help keep the cold out of your dome.
Have you ever wondered how artificial turf is made? Artificial turf fields are popping up across the country because the technology has gotten to the point where artificial turf is pretty close to the real thing.
Artificial grass also makes it super easy to turn an outdoor field into an indoor field for the winter. Many soccer domes are put away in the spring, then re-inflate in the fall and this wouldn’t be possible if the turf was living, breathing, photosynthesizing grass.
Artificial turf has been around for a while and it has come a long way since it’s humble beginnings. Making turf is actually a relatively straightforward process, while also being a very specialized procedure.
There was actually an episode of “How It’s Made,” that demonstrated the process of fabricating turf, so if you want to see it in action, check out this clip.
Turf has two basic components, the strands of “grass” and the fabric backing to which the strands are attached to. Obvious, right? But making fake grass that feels and reacts the same as the real thing is the real trick.
Plastic Blades of Grass
We all know what real grass feels like, so it’s pretty hard to fool anyone into thinking artificial blades of grass are even close to the real thing. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to create artificial grass that won’t fool someone for a minute into thinking they are walking on living grass.
It all starts with the individual strands. Starting with high quality white plastic pellets, the plastic is melted and coloured green. The plastic is then extruded into long strands of grass. The strands are stretched (which strengthens them), then spooled together and formed into a yarn. Once this yarn is ready, it’s ready to move on to the next step.
Pulling Synthetic Turf Together
Starting with a large sheet of fabric, the plastic grass yarn is pulled through using a large, automatic sewing machine. Once the yarn is looped through the sheet, another machine slices the ends of each loop. This releases all the individual strands in the yarn, as well as creates a realistic tip on each blade of grass.
An adhesive is applied to the back of the fabric to hold the strands in place, as well to add strength to the entire sheet. A bit more processing increases the strength of the sheet, as well as provides water permeability. To simulate real grass it needs to be able to withstand heavy feet, as well as the elements.
Once the sheets of grass are ready, they’re rolled up and shipped off to sport fields, ready to be applied by synthetic turf professionals. There is a science and methodology to installing turf to make it feel as close to the real thing as possible, but we’ll get into that in another blog.
Air dome sport facilities couldn’t exist without synthetic turf that can simulate the real thing. Thanks to both, indoor sport is more viable than ever! If you’d like to learn more about turf in your upcoming air structure project, just ask and we’re able to point you in the right direction.
Over the past few years, you’ve likely noticed that many things from cars, to flashlights, to home lighting have switched to using LED lights. You may have even noticed that many of our newest dome projects are using LED lighting systems. We’re even retrofitting older bubbles with LEDs. But why are you seeing LED lights everywhere nowadays?
The world relied on incandescent lighting for many years, but technologies change over time and we now have something better. The light emitting diode (or LED) format offers a more efficient and effective type of lighting. Initially quite expensive, the technology has come down considerably in price and has largely replaced its outdated predecessor. Incandescent bulbs typically waste 80-90% of their energy as heat, rather than light. The other game in town, Contact Fluorescent Lamps, also don’t measure up, wasting as much as 80%.
While some products that promise improvements fail to deliver (remember New Coke?), LED has only grown in popularity because consumers and businesses see the obvious improvements. Using about 75% less energy than the competition, LED makes good financial sense, but also offers other appealing features.
LED offers a number of options that help you attain the sort of lighting that both compliments your home and provides comfortable illumination for your family. You can choose from various colour temperatures that provide different types of light, including soft and warm, neutral, or cool white.
LEDs are also more stylish, which makes planning your living space more satisfying. You can even buy LED lights already integrated into the fixture, greatly increasing your design choices. That certainly beats a plain, old-fashioned light fixture hung from the ceiling.
Incandescent bulbs were standard on cars for years, but LED is gaining in popularity, and for good reason. LED lights tend to be brighter and have a faster response time. This is especially important when you are braking. A fraction of a second may not seem like much, but it can be the difference between a safe stop and an accident. As LED draws less current than incandescent, they also put less strain on the turn signal system. LED also has a longer lifespan, which saves you money in the end. The recently introduced LED Plasma lights are even brighter.
You can also install LED lights in different colors in your front grill or on the underbody of the vehicle (known as underglow), to very cool effect!
Stadium and Dome Lighting
Metal halide lights are much slower than LED. Getting metal halide lights going again after a power failure often requires a wait of at least ten minutes. Can you imagine having to stop a football game where one team is on a roll and attempting a comeback? Their momentum could be completely lost by the time the lights are back on. This is not a problem for LED, which fire up instantly.
This aspect of LED not only benefits the players, but also allows stadiums to offer more elaborate and entertaining light shows during halftime. Not to mention the reduced energy cost of LED also makes such displays more affordable. LEDs are also much lower maintenance—a big deal for domes where the lights can be hard to reach!
Eating healthy and staying fit is important to many people, but it can be incredibly hard to do! Staying fit is easy to achieve in the summer when there are so many outdoor sports to try. Soccer, volleyball, swimming, tennis or even simply running outside!
However, what happens in the winter? Some people adapt well with winter sports, but for those who only love summer sports…Are they left with nothing?
Of course not! It is still possible to stay fit all year, even if you only choose to participate in typical summer sports. All you need is to find an indoor sports center!
Look For An Intramural League
Most indoor sports centers have various intramural leagues. Since they are not outdoors, you can continue playing volleyball or another summer sport without worrying about the snow or other instances of harsh winter weather. These indoor sports centers also allow you to continue playing even if there is a thunderstorm or other unfortunate weather outside.
There are many sports you can likely find in an intramural league. They include:
* Ball Hockey
* Flag Football
Swim in the Winter
In addition to the various intramural sports people can participate in all year, thanks to the magic of domes and seasonal sports bubbles, people also have the opportunity to swim in outdoor pools during the winter! Did you think that was impossible? Think again.
What if you want to swim outside in the summer and inside in the winter?
It is possible to put a dome over the pool in the winter to avoid the snow and the cold weather. Keep swimming! Once the weather heats up and summer is on its way, we can take the dome down. Now you have an outdoor swimming pool!
Dive in and enjoy staying fit, swimming every month of the year.
Join a Group Fitness Class
There is one more popular option available to help you stay fit all year in an indoor sports center. Many facilities will offer a variety of fitness classes all year. Some of the popular options include:
* Toning and Strength
* Spin Class
This list is only the tip of the iceberg! Different facilities will have a different list of fitness classes you can take—a quick Google search should uncover them all. In addition to this, many facilities will cycle their classes from season to season, while also maintaining a list of favorites. This will inject some variety into your fitness routine. Once again, an indoor sports center has come to your rescue!
If you’re the type of person that wants to stay active, but hates going to the gym and would rather join a team, don’t forget to look into indoor versions of the sport that you love. Farley domes are inflating all over the country to bring year-round indoor sport spaces!
The Importance of Good Indoor Sports Lighting During an Event
“When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” This pearl of wisdom is a quote from the TV show, Futurama, and it applies to a myriad of little things that people don’t notice. In the world of sport venues (like domes), one of these little things is lighting.
Most people walk into a dome and notice things like the huge, open space or the unique shape. Lighting isn’t really something people notice because it’s one of those things that’s simply expected. It’s only noticeable when it’s not there, and for sport venues it can be disastrous when the lights don’t come on.
If you’re a football fan, you might remember what happened at Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. If you vaguely remember the game, you might not recall the final score but you’ll most likely remember what happened to the lights.
The Baltimore Ravens met the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans to finish out the season and decide on the league’s victor in front of a packed stadium and hundreds of millions of people watching from home. Halfway through the game, though, there wasn’t much to see. The stadium had literally gone dark.
Somehow, the power was flipped off and the entire stadium lost electricity. The lights, and the TV broadcast, was down for 34 minutes and without light, the game to a screeching halt.
Eventually, power was restored and the game continued—apparently, the system detected a problem and shut everything down. The problem was solved, but everyone noticed and would remember this Super Bowl as the one when the lights went out. Had the lights stayed up, nobody would have been talking about the lighting, but because they went down, the mishap made national headlines.
This unfortunate incident should stress just how important lighting is in an indoor sport venue. Even though there are no Super Bowls happening inside our domes, this is exactly why we spend a lot of time thinking about dome lighting. The lights don’t just need to be bright enough to see, they need to be bright enough to see everything that’s happening in a sport dome.
Just think about how important it is to be able to see a soccer ball from the other side of a field, or to see a little baseball that’s arcing 30 feet up in the air. The lighting needs to be just right to maintain the best possible conditions for play. They also need to be durable enough that a wayward football or golf ball won’t damage or knock them down should they over come into contact and give them a good whack.
For sports, lighting is one of the most important environmental considerations to keep in mind, because should they ever fail, it can bring any game to an immediate end. In a sport dome, the lights need to work, and work well. Just don’t expect anyone to notice.
The Grass is Always Greener: A Brief History of Artificial Turf
There’s nothing that can compare to playing on nice, lush, grass—or is there? Many outdoor-only sport purists fall back on one argument against playing indoors: fake turf just isn’t the same. They might not be wrong, but they might not realize just how far artificial turf has come since its inception. Many of the domes we install for indoor sports like soccer, field hockey, or lacrosse, rely on artificial turf, so here’s a rundown of artificial turf’s short history.
Artificial turf has been around since the sixties and it saw its first large scale use in 1965. As the story goes, the Houston Astros home stadium, the Astrodome, had a problem. They wanted a covered playing surface, but because of the grass required on a baseball pitch, a transparent roof had to be installed to let enough light in to keep the grass alive.
The problem arose when players started to complain about light glinting off the clear ceiling and interfering with their ability to play. Have you ever tried to catch a ball with bright light in your face? Not the most pleasant of conditions. The solution: paint the roof to decrease the amount of sunlight shining in everyone’s eyes.
But, as you can imagine, the grass didn’t respond very well to the decrease in light. Luckily, the stadium found a solution to this from a new company that brought them the first artificial turf. The product would later be called, and forever be known as, “AstroTurf” as an homage its beginnings in the Astrodome.
The original AstroTurf provided an alternative to expensive-to-maintain grass and quickly spread to other venues, since the cost savings were significant.
There were some drawbacks to AstroTurf though. The surface has less give to it than living grass and, even worse, the surface was slippery. Second generation AstroTurf was developed by Monsanto’s R and D department and involved a new manufacturing process that provided more texture to the turf.
However, throughout the rest of the 20th century, few changes were made to AstroTurf. They were the only player in the industry and “Why fix what isn’t broken?” But this, would seem, is the wrong mindset. By the 90s, the artificial turf movement had begun to slow as athletes and venues found AstroTurf to be a harder, and more injury prone surface to play on than grass and many fields went back to trying to make real grass work.
It was in the early-2000s that things began to shift again. A new artificial turf burst into the scene and quickly snapped up the majority of playing surfaces from AstroTurf.
Designed to replicate real grass, FieldTurf burst onto the scene to reinvigorate the need for artificial turf. To simulate the real feel of grass, FieldTurf surfaces are composed of single polyethylene blend fibers embedded into a polypropylene backing. Beneath the fibers is an infill that consists of a bottom layer of sand, a middle layer of sand and rubber, and a top rubber layer. The infill simulates the “give” of real grass and the fibers simulate actual blades of grass.
FieldTurf now holds 85% of the market, and AstroTurf (having changed hands several times over the years) is playing catch up. While the name AstroTurf is synonymous with artificial turf, the majority of the turf played on is actually FieldTurf.
It is incredibly complicated to create artificial turf that feels and reacts the same way as real grass, but as many more sports move indoors (thanks to structures like air domes) there is increased drive to create even better artificial turf surfaces. Soon our domes might have artificial turf that might fool even the most savvy of grass connoisseurs!
Air supported structures need to be a closed system to stay inflated. Obvious, right? This is why we use revolving doors to get in and out of them. If you missed it, you can read more about revolving doors in this blog article.
But what happens when you need to get something into a dome that’s bigger than would fit through a revolving door? Deflate the dome, lift a corner, slide it in, then re-inflate the facility? Well you could do it that way, but most air structures that need a big opening for vehicles or equipment use an ingenious invention: the airlock. An airlock is a door system involving two doors. By only having one door open at a time, you prevent losing any air between the inside and the outside.
The principle makes so much sense that airlocks are used in any structure that needs a restriction of the flow of air. As mentioned, air domes use airlocks to keep the air in a dome, but you’ve likely already seen airlocks in use on TV and movies. Most recently, you might have seen Matt Damon using an airlock while depicting an astronaut stranded on Mars in the film The Martian. While this film is fiction, NASA does use airlocks with structures and ships they send out into space.
While the airlock on a dome is slightly different from an airlock in a space shuttle, the principle is exactly the same.
So who invented the airlock? Well no one really knows, the technology has been around in some form or another for a long time. The earliest recorded use of an airlock is also incredibly hard to find. If you happen to stumble upon it, be sure to comment or let us know.
What we do know is how airlocks work with air structures. By using airlock systems, you can install doors that are much larger than you’d expect for an air dome. For example, cargo doors that are large enough to fit trucks in and out have been outfitted on air domes. In fact, the most common limiting factor size-wise is how long a vehicle can be. Whatever you’re trying to get in or out of the airlock system must be shorter than the distance between the two airlock doors. For an airlock to work, both doors must be able to close at the same time.
This is how domes that are used for manufacturing (like our dome where we put together each air dome) or storage/warehouse domes are able to get large shipments in and out of domes. Some multisport domes that require large equipment moved in and out will also use airlock systems.
We’ve even built airlocks that will allow bicycles in and out of a velodrome dome.
Being able to customize airlocks and create unique solutions that think outside the box is where The Farley Group really shines. If you think an air structure won’t work for a particular need, you might need to think again. Airlocks are just one of the solutions to making air structures the perfect facility!
Air surrounds us all and without air, life—as we know it—wouldn’t exist. But what is air? And how are we able to harness its power to create domes that don’t collapse under their own weight but instead stand tall through some of the worst weather Mother Nature can throw at them?
In this first article looking at the science of air-supported structures, we’re going to talk about air and how a seemingly weightless and intangible substance is channeled for impressive feats of engineering.
Air Isn’t Nothing
The first thing to realize is that air isn’t nothing. Nothing exists—sort of—but it’s out in the vacuum of space.
Air can almost be considered a solution—a mixture of molecules all floating around and bumping into each other. A common misconception is that the molecules of air are mostly oxygen, but oxygen only comprises about 21% of the molecules in our planet’s air. The majority of air is actually nitrogen. Air molecules are about 78% nitrogen. Other trace gases make up the rest.
So with all these molecules bumping around, why don’t we see them? Well you can, you just might not notice it. Imagine a hot road in the summer. You know that distortion that you see above the asphalt that looks like the air is shimmering? This is the change in air as the concentration of molecules decreases as the temperature increases then increases again as it cools down.
The Power of Air Pressure
As air molecules fly around and bump off each other, they create a repulsive force in the same way that two magnets will push off each other when their polarity is the same. Just like magnets, the closer you squeeze the molecules together, the more force they exert trying to separate again. This is the principle behind air pressure and the secret to how structures held up by air pressure are so strong.
A perfect demonstration of the power of air pressure is the tires of your car. Imagine the weight that pushes down on those tires and think about how much you trust in the power of air pressure to give you a smooth, comfortable, and safe ride.
Pumping more air in results in a higher amount of air molecules in the enclosed space. More air molecules creates more force against the tire walls as all the molecules fight to push off from each other. This force is air pressure and the greater the air pressure, the more strength the tire has against outside forces, like a car pushing down on it.
The same principles keep domes up.
Air pressure is strong, and so are domes. Just like a tire, the air pressure in a dome keeps the walls up. Instead of a car, though, a dome holds up against air pushing back down on it and the force of gravity. For a dome, these forces are relatively small so the inside air pressure only needs to be slightly higher than the outside pressure. (The internal pressure only needs to be 0.0036 PSI greater than the atmosphere).
Well-constructed domes and state of the art inflation systems manage the air pressure perfectly to keep domes properly inflated and ready to perform. Air structures are a feat of engineering made possible by harnessing the power of air pressure.