How UV Can Harm Your Materials

How UV Can Harm Your Materials

Environment is one of the biggest factors to consider when choosing the right materials for your project. If your device or equipment operates outside, you need to use a material that won’t be vulnerable to ultraviolet (UV) radiation produced by the sun.

Luckily, there are materials that are resistant to UV rays. For others, here’s what to know if your product will not be UV-resistant.

The Power of UV Radiation

Ultraviolet rays come from radiation that falls between the visible light range (what human can visibly see) and the x-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum. UV rays can be produced by high temperature at any source, such as specialized lamps and lasers, but most commonly come the sun.

While most of the UV radiation from the sun is absorbed in Earth’s atmosphere, about 33% still reaches objects on the surface of the planet. Some materials are unaffected, and others can produce a glow, such as insects, fish, inks, and road signage. In humans, UV rays penetrate the skin to produce a tan or sunburn.

How Materials React

The molecular makeup of certain materials can become damaged if those materials are not resistant to UV rays. The chain of molecules will begin to break down, causing both physical and chemical changes.

This damage, called UV degradation, affects many natural and synthetic polymers including some rubbers, neoprene and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). With too much exposure, these materials can:

  • Fade color
  • Lose strength
  • Become less flexible
  • Crack
  • Disintegrate

Certain inks and dyes can be affected as well. This problem, called photodegradation or phototendering, causes objects like textiles, artwork and polymers to:

  • Change color
  • Fade in color
  • Produce a chalky surface

Not all materials become damaged by UV radiation. Many silicones are generally UV-stable, as well as acrylic, types of glass, and more. (Want a longer list? Contact us here.)

What to Consider When Choosing Materials

Even though some materials are susceptible to damage from UV radiation, they still may be appropriate for your product if they have little-to-no exposure. Consider these when you’re choosing a material:

Environment. If your product will be indoors or enclosed 24/7, there’s little need to be concerned about UV radiation.

Degree of exposure. Occasional sun exposure and constant sun exposure can mean a big difference.

Getting Started

Want help choosing a material for your project? Our materials experts can guide you through a list of products that are both resistant and non-resistant to UV radiation.

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