UV

Ultraviolet (UV) light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV. It is named because the spectrum consists of electromagnetic waves with frequencies higher than those that humans identify as the color violet. These frequencies are invisible to humans, but visible to a number of insects and birds. They are also indirectly visible, by causing fluorescent materials to glow with visible light. UV light is found in sunlight and is emitted by electric arcs and specialized lights such as black lights. It can cause chemical reactions, and causes many substances to glow or fluoresce. Most ultraviolet is classified as non-ionizing radiation. The higher energies of the ultraviolet spectrum from wavelengths about 10 nm to 120 nm ('extreme' ultraviolet) are ionizing, but this type of ultraviolet in sunlight is blocked by normal dioxygen in air, and does not reach the ground. However, the entire spectrum of ultraviolet radiation has some of the biological features of ionizing radiation, in doing far more damage to many molecules in biological systems than is accounted for by simple heating effects (an example is sunburn). These properties derive from the ultraviolet photon's power to alter chemical bonds in molecules, even without having enough energy to ionize atoms.

Located in: Glossary