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Polycarbonate and Protection from UV Radiation. What does this really mean?


The use of polycarbonate sheets for roofing has almost become synonymous with protection from UV radiation. But what does this protection really mean? And what is the protection good for? Tamir Horesh, from Palram, answered these questions for us.




What is ultraviolet radiation?

UV or ultraviolet radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from 10 to 400 nanometers, meaning, that its waves are shorter than visible light, which we can see with our eyes, and longer than X rays.

About 10% of the radiation generated by the sun is UV. Thankfully, the shorter and most hazardous UV waves are absorbed by the atmosphere. At ground level, earth receives the range of 280-400 nanometers, which can be further divided to the higher UVA and lower UVB ranges. UV is well known for its harmful effects on the skin tissue which can increase the risk of cancer. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has been shown to correlate with the degree of UV exposure. UV exposure can also result in premature aging of the skin including wrinkling, freckling, dryness and roughness. Eye exposure has been associated with cornea damage and might lead to cataract formation. In addition, UV has a degrading effect on other organic and non-organic materials, which you can notice if you leave household items exposed to the sun for extended periods of time. Painted items would lose some of their colour and some materials could crack or even disintegrate over time when exposed to the sun. On the beneficial side, UV radiation is responsible for the formation of Vitamin D in our bodies.


Does polycarbonate block UV radiation?

Polycarbonate as a material blocks almost the entire relevant UV spectrum, meaning both UVA and UVB. The material absorbs UV radiation and does not allow it to be transmitted through. Even a very thin sheet of polycarbonate would absorb UV rays, and would provide far better protection to the skin and eyes than any sun protection cream. At the same time, polycarbonate transmits the visible light, which is the part of the spectrum that allows us to see colours. The visible light is higher on the spectrum, between 400 and 750 nanometers. The UV blocking characteristic made polycarbonate a popular choice for roofing in both commercial and residential construction. A great example is a swimming pool covered with a polycarbonate roof – bathers enjoy the natural light, which is transmitted, and they do not need to worry about UV radiation which is completely blocked.

The UV blocking characteristic is a clear advantage of polycarbonate over other glazing materials such as glass, acrylic and fiberglass. While polycarbonate in its natural form blocks UV, other materials have to be specifically treated for UV blocking.


Does polycarbonate block UV radiation?

Polycarbonate as a material blocks almost the entire relevant UV spectrum, meaning both UVA and UVB. The material absorbs UV radiation and does not allow it to be transmitted through. Even a very thin sheet of polycarbonate would absorb UV rays, and would provide far better protection to the skin and eyes than any sun protection cream. At the same time, polycarbonate transmits the visible light, which is the part of the spectrum that allows us to see colors. The visible light is higher on the spectrum, between 400 and 750 nanometers. The UV blocking characteristic made polycarbonate a popular choice for roofing in both commercial and residential construction. A great example is a swimming pool covered with a polycarbonate roof – bathers enjoy the natural light, which is transmitted, and they do not need to worry about UV radiation which is completely blocked.

The UV blocking characteristic is a clear advantage of polycarbonate over other glazing materials such as glass, acrylic and fiberglass. While polycarbonate in its natural form blocks UV, other materials have to be specifically treated for UV blocking.

Source: Tamir Horesh, VP Marketing at Palram: https://blog.palram.com/construction-and-architecture/polycarbonate-and-protection-from-uv-radiation