Exploring the Optical Clarity of Clear Plastic Acrylic Sheets

Clear plastic acrylic sheets have ascended to new levels of popularity in recent years. Strong, durable and highly versatile, acrylic sheets are now the preferred material in a huge range of applications.

One of the huge advantages of clear acrylic is the fantastic levels of optical clarity. Compared to glass, which delivers below 90%, acrylic allows up to 92% of visible light that it comes in contact with to pass through. The result is a material that is astonishingly clear. 

Today, we at Sheet Plastics are delving deeper into optical clarity. We are going to outline what, exactly, the term refers to. Additionally, we want to unpack the science behind acrylic clarity so you can better understand how it is made possible. 

Continue below for more information. 

What Is Optical Clarity?

In a number of industries, and specific applications, a material’s optical clarity and properties are highly important considerations. It will be explored when selecting materials and will contribute heavily to the decision making process. 

But what is optical clarity exactly? And moreover, why is it important? The answer is quite simple. 

Optical clarity refers to how capable a material is of letting light pass through. Materials that have high levels of optical clarity, such as clear plastic acrylic sheets, will allow light to pass through without any distortion, bending or scattering. In layman’s terms, it is easy to see through. 

It goes without saying, but this is important in a number of applications. A material’s ability to allow light through without obstruction is highly beneficial, particularly for reducing eye fatigue and enhancing levels of comfort. However, beyond this there is a high demand across countless sectors for materials with great levels of optical clarity. 

As you may have guessed, clear acrylic plastic sheets have a number of phenomenal benefits. One of those is the spectacular levels of optical clarity which they boast. 

In order for the material to be able to do this however, there are a number of scientific principles which are altered in the engineering process. We explore some of these below.

The Science Behind The Optical Clarity of Clear Plastic Acrylic Sheets

Understanding The Refractive Index

Although it sounds complex, the concept behind the refractive index is quite simple. The refractive index gives us a measurement of how much light is bent when it passes between mediums. 

Simply put, clear acrylic plastic sheets are engineered to have a refractive index similar to glass. Thus, like glass, light is able to pass through freely without significant distortion or scattering.

Molecule Structure 

The optical clarity of acrylic starts at the molecular level. By this, we mean that the molecules in acrylic are uniquely arranged in a way that maximises light transmission. The crystal clear molecule structure, free of impurities or irregularities, means light that passes through is not scattered or distorted.

The way acrylic is structured also helps to minimise light dispersion. The majority of light which hits and subsequently passes through this type of material does not experience colour separation or distortion, for the most part.  

The Manufacturer's Role

As you may have guessed by now, any surface irregularities, or even scratches, on clear plastic acrylic sheets can disrupt light transmission. Light can be scattered and transparency is ultimately reduced. 

In an effort to combat this, manufacturers often employ techniques such as polishing or finishing. This is widely done and allows for a smooth, even surface with optimal levels of transparency.

UV Resistant Qualities Help

Overtime, degradation and discolouration can occur as a result of UV rays from the sun. Both of these are likely to impact a material’s light transmission performance.

When manufacturers are creating acrylic sheeting, UV stabilisers are used which make the end product highly resistant to yellowing or degradation from UV light. Not only does this make it highly durable then, but it also ensures optical clarity for years to come.

As you can see, clear acrylic plastic sheets are manufactured to allow high levels of light to pass through. Optical performance is an important factor during the engineering process, as is seen in the structuring of the molecules. This is consistent to the end, with manufacturers finishing and polishing the material to achieve consistent results from a performance perspective. 

Whether for windows, signs or any other application, having a material with great levels of optical transparency is highly desirable. Acrylic offers just that, and in some cases outperforms traditional optically clear materials such as glass.

Your Leading Supplier of Clear Acrylic

If you find that you would benefit from the products discussed in this article, we would like to hear from you. 

As a leading stockist, we have a range of clear acrylic that can be cut to your unique specifications. Reap the benefits of this fantastic material by ordering today. 

If you require assistance with the buying process, or have any product related enquiries, we encourage you to contact us.