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What is Polycarbonate?

CDs are made of polycarbonate.
Sheets of colored polycarbonate.
Sunglasses made with polycarbonate.
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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 06 July 2014
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Polycarbonate is a versatile, tough plastic used for a variety of applications, from bulletproof windows to compact disks (CDs). The main advantage of this material over other types of plastic is its great strength combined with light weight. While acrylic is 17% stronger than glass, polycarbonate is nearly unbreakable. Bulletproof windows and enclosures as seen inside banks or at drive-throughs are often made of this plastic. Add to this the advantage that it is just 1/3 the weight of acrylic, or 1/6 as heavy as glass, and the only drawback is that it is more expensive than either.

Compact disks and digital versatile discs (DVDs) are perhaps the most readily recognized examples of polycarbonate. Anyone who has archived files on a writable CD, then later tried to break it before throwing it away, knows just how tough this material can be.

Clear polycarbonate is used to make eyeglasses because of its excellent transparency, durability, and high refractive index. This means that it bends light to a far greater degree than glass or other plastics of equal thickness. Since prescription lenses bend light to correct vision, polycarbonate lenses can be thinner than glass or conventional plastic, making it the ideal material for heavy prescriptions. These thin lenses correct poor vision without distorting the face or the size of the eyes, yet this extremely thin lens is virtual indestructible, an important safety factor for children and active adults.

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Polycarbonate lenses are also used in quality sunglasses that incorporate filters to block ultra-violet (UV) rays and near-UV rays. The lenses can also be polarized to block glare, and their high impact resistance makes them perfect for sports. Many sunglasses manufacturers choose this material because it can be easily shaped without problems like cracking or splitting, resulting in extremely lightweight, distortion-free, fashionable glasses that feature all of the health benefits doctors recommend.

The electronics industry also uses polycarbonate. It has been used to create transparent colored computer cases, for example, and many cell phones, pagers, and laptops also use it in their casings.

Other uses for polycarbonate include greenhouse enclosures, automobile headlights, outdoor fixtures, and medical industry applications, though the list is virtually endless. Somewhat less toxic than polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to produce, this plastic nevertheless requires toxic chemicals in its production phase. It is, however, recyclable and environmentally preferable to PVC in applications for which either material can be used.

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Discuss this Article

anon959634
Post 48

Is polycarbonate considered a composite material?

anon337213
Post 47

Wow. There are -- surprisingly -- a lot of uses for polycarbonate plastics.

anon328038
Post 46

I am planning on buying an outdoor portable basketball system. The system I am interested in has a backboard made from polycarbonate. I have read that polycarbonate yellows over time if left in the sun. Should I worry about the yellowing and look at a system made from acrylic?

anon322577
Post 45

Polycarbonate can be used for making jars that hold packaged drinking water.

anon297558
Post 44

How is polycarbonate manufactured?

anon284809
Post 43

@Anon8955: "What can I use to dissolve polycarbonate on my injection moulding machine nozzles?"

A: Bleach or acetone.

anon246513
Post 41

Are polycarbons used in making lens implants for cataract surgery?

anon178984
Post 40

What will happen to the polycarbonate sight glass when it reaches its temperature limit?

anon161667
Post 39

At what temperature does methanol dissolve in polycarbonate? How long will it take to dissolve?

izara
Post 37

I buy my drinking water in the 5 gallon polycarbonate bottles that I own. Due to the remoteness of the area they are expensive to buy.

Problem i,s sometimes they develop leaks.

What can I use to repair these five gallon polycarbonate bottles?

anon146505
Post 36

what's the highest temp. that can a polycarbonate stand or resist?

r1234
Post 35

what are the different products that can be made from polycarbonate? can someone help me with its different applications?

anon133085
Post 32

Can a chair made of polycarbonate harm a child who might use it as a desk chair?

anon131218
Post 30

In answer to Raw Foods guy (no. 4?) yes. Polycarbonate has been found to leach into water at room temperature. The chemical part that leaches is Bisphenol A, or something like that. And it is lab rat tested as being disruptive or mutational to the endocrine system, especially in female ovaries or something.

anon117957
Post 29

what uses does polycarbonate plastic have in a mobile phone?

anon109826
Post 28

can polycarbonate be used in chocolate moldmaking?

anon88367
Post 25

Is polycarbonate if made into a face shield is it chemically resistant? Thanks.

anon80976
Post 24

how do I recycle these lenses? 24" diameter.

anon75655
Post 23

Are polycarbonate sunglasses laser engraveable? eywu

anon68578
Post 21

Another fine post. We do injection moulding and I can safely say you answered that question well.

anon67638
Post 20

Polycarbonate plastics are sometimes used to make rulers, but rulers are easily snapped, so how are they nearly unbreakable?

anon62154
Post 19

I was told one time that the best way to clean your glasses is to just run the tap water on hot at full blast, then wipe dry with a clean, soft cotton towel. If I do this with polycarbonate lenses, will they melt? Will they lose their various coatings (like anti-glare)?

anon60760
Post 18

is polycarbonate a safe product for drink bottles to be made of?

anon56572
Post 17

What is Polycarbonate made of?

anon43490
Post 16

Is a polycarb lens easier to "see through" than a plastic lens, assuming that a glass lens would be the gold-standard of clarity? For instance, "seeing through" a glass window is always clear and easier than a plastic window. How does it compare? Dale in Humble, Texas

anon43109
Post 15

Does polycarbonate get more brittle with age? If so what causes that aging? (UV breaking the polymer chain /temperature, etc.)

anon42129
Post 14

Is it safe to clean the goggles with percept wipes (hydrogen peroxide)?

anon40160
Post 13

I am noticing that the lenses on my car headlights are turning yellow and dull. How can i fix this? What can i use to clean? Can i make my own cleaning solution with ordinary products?

yaserfarouq
Post 12

hi. can you help?

What are the names of companies specialized in the production of plates polycarbonate in the world and what is the machines used in the industry plates polycarbonate used in the manufacture of cards.

thank you

anon35853
Post 11

How do you differentiate between PET (Polyurethene Terapthalate used to make mineral water bottles) and polycarbonate

anon35435
Post 10

what can i use to dissolve polycarbonate on my injection moulding machine

anon28628
Post 9

Does polycarbonate outgased when it is used in food industry as food containers and drink dispensers?

anon26350
Post 8

I want to build semi-acoustic panels for a home theater. I have the fabric and foam. What is a good lightweight rigid substrate to use for the backing?

GrandmaSandi
Post 7

Is polycarbonate stain free or stain resistant? I want to buy a blender with the cup made out of this material. I will be using it to blend red chile for making tamales and want to know if it will stain.

anon16498
Post 6

Ernestpino,

There are optical quality grades of polycarbonate available. Sabic Innovative Plastics has multiple polycarbonate optical quality grades availabe depending upon the melt flow requirements of your application. One such grade is Lexan (tradename) OQ3820.

You can reduce scratches by having a silicone hardcoat applied over the top of the Lexan. This is typically done in as a secondary step after molding. You may want to reconsider who is molding your application, doesn't sound like they are very knowledgeable with regards to polycarbonate!

rmoratti
Post 4

I'm looking to buy a food dehydrator for what is called "living Food" or "Raw Foods". My concern is one company that is recommended uses polycarbonate on their device. Does anyone know if there is Toxins being release into the food as you dehydrate? I believe the highest temp set is 145. We've been told the whole ordeal about heating plastics (microwave)....I understand that's a higher temp/ and works differently.

I'm buy a dehydrator to get the most benefits of my health......not hinder it.

ernestpino
Post 3

I have invented a safety product that is made of polycarbonate I need it to be polished so it is clear as my glasses. what specification should I ask for? Also the molder cannot answer my question of how to make it scratch resistant, is there something that can be added to the mix? last question: how to achieve the polarized effect on the lens.

Thanks Ernest

anon8955
Post 1

What can I use to dissolve polycarbonate on my injection moulding machine nozzles?

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