What is the Life Expectancy of a Geomembrane?

The ASTM testing test of the International Geomaterials Association GRI-GM13 standard shows that the service life of geomembranes is as high as 50-100 years. Geomembranes are used in civil engineering and environmental engineering. Yet, due to some uncontrollable construction operations, raw materials, environment, and other complex factors, there is no problem in using the geomembrane for 50 years without exposure. If exposed for a long time, the service life will be shortened.

Common geomembrane types include high-density polyethylene (HDPE geomembrane), linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE geomembrane), polyvinyl chloride (PVC geomembrane), and ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM geomembrane). Antioxidants, anti-UV additives, etc., are added to the geomembrane during production. The geomembrane has an anti-aging function. The anti-aging life is related to the geomembrane’s thickness and the geomembrane’s use method.

Generally speaking, a geomembrane that uses 100% virgin raw materials and is installed can have a service life of 30 to 50 years or even longer. Yet, this is only an estimate, and the actual lifespan is affected by the following factors:

1. Geomembrane raw materials: Different materials have different chemical resistance and physical properties, affecting their durability.

Under the same conditions, HDPE (high-density polyethylene) geomembrane usually has a longer service life. This is because HDPE has some characteristics that exhibit higher durability and stability in many applications.

①. Molecular density:

HDPE has a higher molecular density and a tighter molecular chain structure. This makes HDPE geomembrane perform better in terms of anti-permeability and chemical stability.

②. Anti-aging properties:

HDPE generally has better anti-aging properties and is more resistant to UV rays. This allows HDPE to maintain its physical properties longer in outdoor exposure environments.

③. Chemical resistance:

HDPE is more chemical-resistant, making it more suitable for environments requiring high chemical stability. It is resistant to many chemicals.

In contrast, LLDPE (linear low-density polyethylene) geomembrane may have lower stability in some aspects because its molecular chain structure is loose, resulting in weak anti-permeability and anti-aging properties.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) geomembrane performs well in some applications but may exhibit a shorter service life relative to HDPE under certain chemical and environmental conditions.

EPDM (ethylene propylene rubber) geomembranes are often used in some special applications, but their service life may be short under long-term exposure to UV rays and some chemicals.

2. Environmental conditions: Exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet radiation), temperature fluctuations, and weather conditions may affect the degradation of geomembranes.

①. Exposed to sunlight:

UV radiation: Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause aging and degradation of geomembranes. Some geomembrane materials are more sensitive to UV radiation, so their lifespan may be shortened when exposed to direct sunlight.

Temperature changes: The temperature difference between day and night and seasonal temperature changes may cause the geomembrane material to expand and contract, increasing the stress on the material and thus affecting its durability.

②. Buried underneath:

Protection: Burying under soil or other materials can provide protection, reducing the geomembrane’s exposure to ultraviolet light, weather, and mechanical damage.

Temperature stability: Geomembranes buried in soil can better enjoy the temperature stability of the soil and reduce the impact that temperature changes may have on it.

Exposure to sunlight often shortens the life of a geomembrane, as UV rays and climatic factors can cause the material to age. Being buried underneath can provide some protection and help extend the service life of the geomembrane.

3. Installation quality: Proper installation, including welding seams and securing the geomembrane to the substrate, is critical to ensuring its long life. Proper installation maximizes the life of the geomembrane and prevents mechanical damage and penetration problems; incorrect installation can cause mechanical damage, seam problems, wrinkles, and edge lifting, shorten the life, and increase the risk of penetration and UV damage.

4. Chemical exposure: Geomembranes may be exposed to various chemicals in soil or water. The geomembrane’s resistance to these chemicals will affect its service life. Chemical exposure may cause chemical erosion, dissolution, deterioration, and aging of the geomembrane, reducing its waterproofing performance and lifespan. Selecting resistant geomembrane materials and taking precautions are critical to ensuring their long life.

5. Maintenance: Regular inspection and maintenance of the geomembrane will help detect problems early so they can be repaired or replaced.

To ensure or extend the service life of the geomembrane, the following are some recommended geomembrane thickness ranges. Geomembrane thickness selection usually depends on specific project needs, soil conditions, and application environment.

①. Water conservancy projects usually use a thickness of 0.5mm to 1.5mm

②. Basic engineering: usually uses a thickness of 0.75mm to 1.5mm, selected according to soil conditions and engineering requirements.

③. Reservoir: usually use a thickness of 0.5mm to 1.5mm

④. Landfill: usually use a thickness of 0.75mm to 2.0mm

⑤. Aquaculture: usually use a thickness of 0.5mm to 1.5mm

⑥. Gold mines and tailings usually use a thickness of 1.00mm to 2.0mm, depending on the yard design and the type of hazardous materials.

⑦. Underground waterproofing: usually use a thickness of 0.5mm to 1.5mm

⑧. Oil and gas: usually use a thickness of 0.75mm to 2.0mm

⑦. Sun salt: usually use a thickness of 0.5mm to 1.5mm

These thicknesses are for reference only, and specific geomembrane selection should be made under the guidance of a professional engineer to ensure compliance with local regulations, environmental conditions, and engineering requirements.

It is important to note that these are general considerations, and specific circumstances may vary. As a leading geomembrane manufacturer, we provide high-quality, durable, and reliable geomembrane products. Free geomembrane samples, 24-hour online technical guidance, and professional installation support ensure your project succeeds. Contact us to create a one-stop geomembrane solution for sustainable development.

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