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Stopping fade out

SpecialChem / Dec 18, 2000

Ultraviolet (UV) light is probably the most damaging environment for plastics. Although to be fair to plastics, it attacks, to a greater or lesser extent, most other materials as well. The main source of UV is, of course, sunlight. All applications of plastics which are used outdoors are therefore at risk, from roofing and window frames to vehicles. Historically the best means of UV protection has been by surface coating. But with plastics it is possible to do much more; incorporating built-in protection into the compound. UV radiation attacks all types of polymers, but a few (such as acrylonitriles and methyl methacrylates) show better resistance than most. It can cause colour change and degradation of physical properties, especially in polyolefins, styrenics, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polycarbonate (PC) and polyurethane (PU). The effect is very familiar: discoloration, especially yellowing or whitening ('chalking'), is the most apparent - but, underneath, there is usually the beginning of a loss of physical properties such as impact strength, tensile strength and elongation.

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