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Properties of Perspex

PROPERTIES OF PERSPEX
CONTENTS
1. INTRODUCTION. ............................................................................................................ 2
1.1 Limitations of Data ............................................................................................. 2
1.2 The Perspex Range ...................................................................................... 2
2. GENERAL PROPERTIES .............................................................................................. 3
2.1 Clarity ........... 3
2.2 Weathering resistance ....................................................................................... 3
2.3 Thermoplastic Behaviour .................................................................................. 3
2.4 Water Absorption ............................................................................................... 3
2.5 Abrasion Resistance.......................................................................................... 3
2.6 Relative Density................................................................................................. 3
2.7 Flammability ...................................................................................................... 5
2.8 Permeability to Gases ....................................................................................... 6
3 MECHANICAL PROPERTIES .......................................................................................... 6
3.1 Tensile Modulus and Tensile Strength .............................................................. 6
3.1.1 Tensile Modulus ............................................................................................ 7
3.1.2 Tensile Strength ............................................................................................. 7
3.2 Flexural Modulus ............................................................................................... 7
3.3 Dynamic Flexural Modulus ................................................................................ 8
3.4 Flexural Strength ............................................................................................. 11
3.5 Compressive Modulus ..................................................................................... 11
3.6 Shear Strength ............................................................................................... 11
3.7 Poissons Ratio ...................................................................................... 11
3.8 Creep ...................................................................................................... 12
3.9 Fatigue .................................................................................................... 12
3.10 Crazing ................................................................................................. 13
3.11 Impact Strength ..................................................................................... 14
3.12 Hardness ............................................................................................... 16
4. THERMAL PROPERTIES ............................................................................................. 17
4.1 Vicat Softening Point ....................................................................................... 17
4.2 Temperature of Deflection underload ............................................................. 17
4.3 Demoulding Temperature ................................................................................ 17
4.4 Coefficient of Thermal Expansion .................................................................. 17
5. OPTICAL PROPERTIES .............................................................................................. 19
5.1 Clear Perspex ............................................................................................ 19
5.2 Strain optical Coefficient ................................................................................ 19
5.3 Transport coloured Perspex ....................................................................... 19
5.4 Translucent and Opaque coloured Perspex .............................................. 21
5.5 Whiite Opals ................................................................................................... 21
6. ELECTRICAL PROPERTIES ........................................................................................ 24
6.1 Permittivity and Loss Tangent ....................................................................... 24
6.2 Surface Resistivity ........................................................................................ 24
6.3 Electrical Strength ........................................................................................ 24
6.4 Volume Resistivity ......................................................................................... 24
7. CHEMICAL RESISTANCE ........................................................................................... 28

1-Properties
11
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1. INTRODUCTION
Before considering the properties of Perspex in detail, it is necessary to examine certain
overriding factors which affect the interpretation of the results of tests applied to thermoplastic
materials. One of the features distinguishing thermoplastics is the effect of temperature on
their mechanical properties. Broadly speaking, when thermoplastics are heated, they become
mechanically weaker and softer; conversely, when cooled, they become harder, stiffer and
less tough. This behaviour permits easy processing, which partly accounts for their
widespread use in industry, but at the same time it introduces complications into the
discussion of their mechanical properties, which must always be interpreted with reference to
temperature. A further characteristic of thermoplastics is the marked dependence on their
mechanical properties on the rate at which they are stressed or strained. Again, this factor
must be taken into account when interpreting test data for design purposes. Although these
two factors apply to all thermoplastics, the precise relationship will depend upon the particular
material.
1.1 LIMITATIONS OF DATA
In any instance the exact method of test, and factors such as the size and shape of the
specimen, can affect the result, and therefore, throughout this handbook, details of the test
methods which have been employed are given. The data are restricted to the properties of
Perspex acrylic materials as supplied, but it must be remembered that when thermoplastics
are heat-formed, their molecules inevitably undergo some reorientation and this change in
structure can result in changes in properties. The designer may sometimes have to take into
account the possibility of a slight variation from nominally quoted thickness. Details of
available sizes and dimensional tolerance are published separately.
1.2 THE PERSPEX RANGE
Perspex is produced in a variety of sizes, thickness and smooth or textured surface finishes.
It is manufactured as clear sheet and in extensive range of opals, transparent and opaque
colours, metallic, bi-signs and fluorescent colours. Apart from the standard range of clear and
coloured sheet, special grades of Perspex are available to provide a spectrum of desirable
properties to meet the requirements of particular specialist applications. These grades
include:
Cross-linked grades for sanitary ware such as baths, shower trays and vanity basins.
A special grade for kitchen sinks, Karran, is available.
A grade suitable for applications where maximum light transmission in the UV band in
required, such as in sun beds.
Easy shaping grades for higher definition mouldings.
A UV absorbing grade particularly suitable for use in conjunction with mercury vapour street
lamps.
A grade combining maximum protection from UV radiation with excellent transparency,
invaluable in ensuring the minimum risk of degradation to art treasures or permanent display
in museums and art galleries.

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2. GENERAL PROPERTIES
2.1 CLARITY
One of the outstanding properties of Perspex acrylic materials in clear form is their very
high light transmission, combining high surface finish with complete absence of colour. These
characteristics have made it possible to produce a very wide colour range, including highly
efficient opals, transparent and opaque colours. The incorporation of dyestuffs and pigments
normally has no effect on the mechanical, machining and shaping properties of Perspex,
but any anomalies of behaviour arising from pigmentation are noted in the text.
2.2 WEATHERING RESISTANCE
The resistance of Perspex to outdoor exposure is also outstanding, and in this respect it is
markedly superior to other thermoplastics. After many years exposure, even under tropical
conditions, the degree of colour change of both clear and coloured materials in extremely
small.
2.3 THERMOPLASTIC BEHAVIOUR
Perspex does not have a sharp melting point but softens gradually as the temperature is
increased. At a temperature of 145 to 165 C it is sufficiently rubberlike to be shaped easily
and simply (see Thermal properties section). Because it is a true thermoplastic, Perspex
retains the property of softening on heating. This is true even after shaping. When the
temperature of a shaping is raised above a certain critical level, the residual stress in the
material is sufficient to cause demoulding and the material exhibits such a degree of plastic
memory as to cause it to revert in time to its original form. Provided however, that the
temperature does not rise above 80oC the shaping will remain stable indefinitely. When
Perspex is first heated to its shaping temperature, it will shrink approximately 2% in both
length and breadth, this shrinkage being accompanied by and increase in thickness sufficient
to maintain the total volume approximately constant.
2.4 WATER ABSORPTION
Perspex has low water absorption, as shown in Figure 1. Although the equilibrium water
content is small, its effect on dimensions may not be negligible, as shown in Figure 2 and
absorbed water may have a slight effect on mechanical properties, acting to some extent as a
plasticizer. The rate of absorption is slow and Figure 3 shows the behaviour of samples
stored at 20oC under conditions of 60%, 80% and 100% relative humidity, starting at two
different water contents. The water content of Perspex, as supplied is in the range 0, 5 0,
8% by weight.
2.5 ABRASION RESISTANCE
The abrasion resistance of Perspex is roughly comparable with that of aluminium, but
because the material is indented rather than removed, the resultant optical effect is rarely
noticeable in service. For example, street lighting lanterns, after many years operations in
heavily industrialized districts showed no deterioration in efficiency, although during this
period they have inevitably been subjected to abrasion by wind-borne dust and repeated
cleaning.
2.6 RELATIVE DENSITY
The low relative density of Perspex, 1,19, enables large components to be made which are
sufficiently strong to be self-supporting and yet light in weight.

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Figure 1
Water Absorption: Saturation values for 2mm sheet

Figure 2
Effect of water absorption on dimensions: 6mm sheet at 20 C. Initial water content
0, 17%

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Figure 3 Amount of water absorbed. 6mm sheet at 20 C

2.7 FLAMABILITY
Perspex is a combustible material and naked flames should not be allowed to come into
contact with it as ignition may occur (except in the case of flame polishing which is carried out
under controlled conditions). If it does burn, its burning rate is similar to hard woods, but
unlike wood and similar materials, burning Perspex produces little or no smoke and does
not continue to smoulder after the fire has been extinguished. Perspex have the following
flammability ratings:

FLAMMABILITY
TEST METHOD

UNITS

RATING

DIN 4102

B2

UL 94

HB

CLASS

mm / MIN

3mm = 28
6mm = 22

BS 476 PT 7
BS 2782 1970 METHOD
508 A

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2.8 PERMEABILITY TO GASES


The values listed below refer to the rate of diffusion of gases at 50oC through thin films of
polymethyl methacrylate. It should be noted the permeability values can vary with
temperature and test method, and figures obtained on thin films may not be accurate for
sheet of commercial thickness.

PERMEABILITY: SI UNITS m3 (STP)


m/m2 sPa

GAS
Carbon dioxide

5.04 x 10-16

Helium

14.1 x 10-16

Nitrogen

0.53 x 10-16

Oxygen

0.86 x 10-16

3. MECHANICAL PROPERTIES
It has already been emphasized that the mechanical properties of Perspex depend
markedly on the temperature at which they are measured, the rate at which the Perspex is
stressed or strained, and to a lesser extent on the presence of absorbed water, which tends
to act as a plasticizer, but this last effect can usually be ignored. When considering data on
the mechanical properties of Perspex, it is therefore necessary to supplement the
information conventionally quoted for the strength of materials (i.e. Data obtained at one
temperature and one straining rate) by families of curves obtained at different temperatures
and rates. A detailed discussion of mechanical properties is given in Ref 1. Values for the
individual mechanical properties determined under conditions of short term testing are listed
in Table 1. Although useful for comparison, they should not be used for design purposes.
Mechanical design data for Perspex at 20oC are given in Table 2. Figures 4 and 13
indicate the effect of temperature on design stress and modulus.
3.1 TENSILE MODULUS AND TENSILE STRENGTH
A test specimen is extended at a constant rate and the load and extension are measured
simultaneously; an extension gauge is normally attached to the gauge length for
measurement of the modulus.
Table 1

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Table 2

3.1.1 TENSILE MODULUS


The stress / strain curve of Perspex is not linear and is sensitive to both temperature and
strain rate. For this reason, for most engineering design purposes, the idea of a secant
modulus at a stated strain (1% secant modulus = stress at 1% elongation divided by 0,01) is
more useful than that of a tangent modulus. The results quoted in Figure 5 cover a wide
range of temperatures and straining rates. For purposes of comparison, the dynamic modulus
/ temperature curve has also been included in Figure 5. The dynamic modulus is measured
by a vibrational method (described under Dynamic flexural modulus) at a strain rate of the
order of 1000 times faster than that used for the determination of the 1% secant modulus.
This comparison is fair, since, although the flexural mode involved compression and tension
on alternate sides of vibrating specimen, it is shown in the section dealing with compression
that that the modulus in compression at low strains (tangent at the origin) is the same as that
in tension. Because time enters into the deformation / load characteristics of Perspex, the
long-term behaviour of a stressed structural member cannot finally be determined without
knowledge of the creep characteristics of Perspex .
3.1.2 TENSILE STRENGTH
The definition of tensile strength adopted for the present purposes is the load at failure
divided by the original cross-sectional area. Failure is said to have occurred either when the
specimen under test breaks below the yield point (Figure 6a) or when the specimen yields
(Figure 6b). Beyond the yield point, extension proceeds under decreasing load and the
material is evidently structural useless. Perspex exhibits failure of type A at temperatures
below 25 C but above this temperature, type B failure becomes more frequent. Tensile
strength is also dependent on strain rate and temperature. Figure 7 shows the effect of strain
rate on the tensile strength and on the 1% secant modulus at 20 C, and Figure 8 shows the
effect of temperature on tensile strength at a rate of 0,044% per second. Details of time to
failure under static load are given in Figure 9.
3.2 FLEXURAL MODULUS
Modulus of elasticity has been measured in flexure. The method is to load the centre of a
supported beam and note the displacement after one minute. The strain in tension on the
convex side of the beam should not exceed 0, 25%. Figure 10 indicates the change of
modulus with temperature using this method.

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3.3 DYNAMIC FLEXURAL MODULUS


A dynamic method of measuring flexural modulus is now widely employed and is described in
Ref.2. Briefly, from the dimensions and resonant frequency of a small vibrating cantilever
specimen, the modulus can be calculated. The experiment also yields information relating to
the resilience of the material which is quoted as loss angle or percentage losses. Near the
softening point of Perspex, as it passes from the glassy to the rubbery state, the losses
increase rapidly and pass through a peak. This can be seen in Figure 11 which also shows
the dependence of modulus and losses on frequency (rate).
Figure 5
Tensile modulus as a Function of Temperature: Comparison with Dynamic Flexural
Modulus

Figure 6
Stress / Strain Relationship

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Figure 7
Effect of strain rate upon tensile strength and 1% secant modulus at 20 C

Figure 8
Effect of temperature upon tensile strength at constant rate of strain; 6mm sheet

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Figure 9 Relationship between fracturing stress and duration of loading at 25 C

Figure 10 Effect of temperature on flexural modulus (one minute value)

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3.4 FLEXURAL STRENGTH


A beam specimen is loaded at three points to give a relative displacement of the ends and
centre at a rate of 50,8 mm per minute until the specimen breaks. The maximum load is note
and the flexural strength is calculated from the following formula:
Flexural strength =

3 =
2

WL
bd

W = maximum load
L = span of beam 101, 6 mm
b = breadth of beam 12, 7 mm
d = thickness of beam 6, 35 mm
3.5 COMPRESSIVE MODULUS
Hollow cylinders 38.1 mm high, 12.7 mm inside diameter, 17.8 to 19.1 mm outside diameter,
are compressed between greased steel platens at a constant rate of 0.254 mm or 0.381 mm
per minute. The simultaneous observations of load and cylinder height permit moduli to be
calculated. At low strains there is a smooth transition from tensile to comprehensive strain, i.e.
there is a common tangent to the stress/strain curves at the origin. In Figure 12 the
compressive modulus at the origin is compared with the tensile modulus at the origin and with
the 1% secant modulus over a range of temperature.
3.6 SHEAR STRENGTH
A punch and die shear test is made upon a sheet specimen. The punch is advanced at 6.35m
per minute until failure takes place. The maximum load registered during the test gives the
shear strength using formula:
Shear strength =

Wmax

2rt
W max = maximum load in MPa
r = radius of punch 3.2 mm
t = sheet thickness 6.35 mm
The shear strength has been determined only at 20oC, but its variation with temperature will
be similar to that for tensile strength shown in Figure 8.
3.7 POISSONS RATIO
This is defined as: lateral contraction / longitudinal extension for uniaxially applied strain and
can be determined by two methods:
(a) Statically, at room temperature by optical measurement of the curvatures of the saddle
surface of a 4- point loaded cantilever.

(b) Semi-statically over the temperature range -25oC to +50oC by simultaneous


measurement of longitudinal and lateral strain in a rectangular bar using electrical resistance
strain gauges as the measuring device.
Methods (a) and (b) give the same result. The value remains essentially constant over the
range of temperature stated, and it must be emphasized that his value applies to low or near
zero strains. At temperatures above 100oC, were large deformations become possible,
Poissons ratio approaches 0, 5.

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Figure 11
Dynamic flexural modulus and losses as functions of temperature and frequency.

3.8 CREEP
Engineers are familiar with the concept of creep in metals i.e. a no-recoverable deformation
which increases with time under static load. Perspex shows a somewhat analogous
behaviour (see Figure 13), but, in contrast to metals, the strain, which is sensitive to
temperature and stress level, is wholly recoverable at a rate depending on the temperature.
Figure 13 gives the apparent Youngs Modulus,
This is equal to:

Appliedstress as a function of time and temperature for strains not exceeding 0.5%.
Observedstrain
3.9 FATIGUE
Fatigue is another phenomenon familiar in engineering practice, and shows itself as a
progressive reduction in strength with increasing time under load. Fatigue occurs with both
static and dynamic loading.

(a)Under static loading conditions


Figure 9 shows how, for static loading, the fracturing stress of Perspex varies with the
duration of loading at a constant temperature (20oC). The change in dimensions (creep) of
the test specimen did not exceed 10% during these tests, so that the increase in stress
arising from decrease in section does not account for the loss of strength which is therefore
almost wholly attributable in fatigue.
(b) Under dynamic loading conditions
Fatigue in flexure of dumbbell-shaped specimens at 25 cycles per second
and room temperature is illustrated in Figure 14. Heat build-up in the test
pieces and different heat-loss conditions for 3 mm and 6 mm sheet probably
account for the different in behaviour.

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3.10 CRAZING
(a) Stress crazing
If the surface tensile stress of a Perspex component exceeds a critical value, the
phenomenon known as crazing may occur. Crazing consists of multiple hair-line surface
cracks which, being very narrow, relatively deep and sharp at the bottom act as notches and
may cause a serious drop in mechanical strength. The depth of the crack may increase with
time if the formation of the surface cracks has not relieved the stress, and so could ultimately
penetrate through the sheet. In general, the stress crazing level, which is affected by factors
such as residual shaping stresses, water content and surface conditions, is about 90% of the
yield stress (or breaking stress if this is less than the yield stress), and therefore depends on
temperature in very much the same way as these quantities do. In common with other
properties, crazing is a time-dependant phenomenon, and so it may occur at lower stresses
after longer periods of loading.
(b) Stress solvent crazing
Perspex materials are more susceptible to stress crazing in the presence of certain organic
chemicals or other vapours. Chemicals liable to promote crazing are indicated in the column
headed Notes in Table 8 on page 30 to 33. It should be noted that those chemicals by
which Perspex is dissolved will also cause crazing of stressed samples.
Figure 12
Comparison of compressive and tensile moduli over a range of temperatures.

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Figure 14 Relationship between fatigue strength and number of cycles to fracture at 25


cycles per second and 20 C.

3.11 IMPACT STRENGTH


Various arbitrary impact tests have been devised from time to time, but the amount of
information they give is limited. Thus, the impact strength of a carefully prepared specimen
determined by such an arbitrary test, does not necessarily give an accurate indication of the
resistance to breakage of a fabricated component in service. Where this information is
required, tests under service conditions must be carried out. Nevertheless, various
specifications in current use call for impact strength data obtained by an Izod test (an
appraisal of which is fully recorded in Ref 3.), or a falling weight test; the relevant data for
Perspex are given in Table 1.
The way in which a material fractures on impact is as important as the impact loading which it
will withstand. When flat un-stretched Perspex fails under impact, fractures radiate from the
point of maximum stress as shown in Figure 15. Any fragments formed are less sharp and
jagged than those of glass, and this fact, together with the low density of Perspex, greatly
reduces the hazard from flying splinters.
When Perspex is orientated, say by stretching during shaping, the manner of fracture
alters. Instead of radial cracks, particles may be dislodged at the point of impact, but the body
of the shaping usually remains intact as shown in Figure 16.
In the design of Perspex components, particularly those liable to be subjected to impact,
sudden changes in cross-section should be avoided because they may lower the effective
impact resistance of the component.

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Figure 15

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Figure 16

3.12 HARDNESS
Hardness is another complicated property of the material, difficult to express in a single
figure, but once again arbitrary test methods have been devised to asses it. Arbitrary methods
which are suitable for Perspex include (a) the pyramid method in accordance with BS 427
(5kg loading for 15 seconds), which gives a value of 22 and (b) the pencil scratch method,
which gives a rapid assessment based on the use of a set of graphite pencils covering the
hardness range 6B to 9H, the hardness quoted being that of the softest pencil which
scratches the sample. Perspex, which is one of the hardest of the thermoplastics, is
scratched by a 9H pencil only.

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4. THERMAL PROPERTIES
Perspex, in common with all other plastics materials, is thermally insulating, and in Table 3
the values of the main thermal constants are given. It will be noted from this table that the
coefficient of thermal expansion is about nine times that of metals, and an appropriate
allowance for this must be made, when designing components where Perspex and metals
will be used together. For certain specification purposes, knowledge of the softening point or
temperature of deflection under load of Perspex is required.
4.1 VICAT SOFTENING POINT
The Vicat softening point is defined as the temperature at which a cylindrical needle, with a
cross-sectional area of 1 mm2, under a load of 1 kg, has penetrated 1 mm into a specimen,
the temperature being raised at a constant rate of 50oC per hour. The 1/10 Vicat softening
point is defined as the temperature at which the penetration reaches 0,1 mm. (The 1/10 Vicat
softening point is a more suitable quantity to measure for acrylic materials, since its value is
less affected by the heating required in the test).
4.2 TEMPERATURE OF DEFLECTION UNDER LOAD
This test is carried out according to BS specification 2782 method 102 G (ISO/R75). The
specimen, consisting of a rectangular bar at least 110 mm long and 9,8 to 12,8mm deep and
width equal to sheet thickness, is three-point loaded over a 100 mm span to 1800 Kpa
maximum fibre stress and the deformation at the centre noted as the temperature is raised at
a constant rate of 2oC per minute. The temperature of deflection under load (TDL) is that
temperature at which the deformation at the centre of the bar reaches a standard deflection
which depends on the depth of the test bar. Of more interest to the designer, however, is
knowledge of the maximum service temperature at which shapings formed from Perspex
can operate without deformation. A demoulding test has been devised to provide this
information.
4.3 DEMOULDING TEMPERATURE
The demoulding temperature has been defined as that temperature at which a free blown
200 mm diameter hemisphere will demould at its apex by 0,5 mm in 100 minutes. Figure 17
shows the relation between the extent of demoulding and time at various temperatures of
200mm diameter hemispheres free-blown from 10 mm thick Perspex.
The demoulding temperature of any particular shaping will be influenced to a small extent by
factors such as the thickness of the sheet from which the shaping is made, the degree of
stretch, and residual stress in the shaping. The value of 87oC given in Table 3 is the
demoulding temperature of a hemisphere blown from 6 mm sheet. In practice, the
demoulding temperature of any shaping will differ from the average value of 87oC because of
the factors mentioned above, but it may be assumed that the majority of Perspex shapings
will operate for long periods at temperatures up to 80C without measurable deformation.
4.4 COEFFICIENT OF THERMAL EXPANSION
The linear coefficient of thermal expansion is measured by means of a quartz-tube
dilatometer in a similar way to that described in ASTM specification D696. The volume
coefficient is then derived from the linear coefficient.

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Table 3 Thermal properties of Perspex.

Figure 17
The extent of demoulding as a function of time at various temperatures.

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5. OPTICAL PROPERTIES
The remarkable clarity of Perspex has been referred to earlier in this handbook, and this
property has led to the use of the material for important optical applications and has enabled
many attractable grades, including transparent, coloured, translucent and patterned varieties
to be developed. In this section the optical properties of the different forms are discussed in
some detail.
5.1 CLEAR PERSPEX
Absorption throughout the visible range is uniform and is less than 0,5% per 25 mm in the
body of the material. Some light is, however, reflected at each surface (a characteristic of all
materials with polished surfaces, and this inevitably reduces the transmission factor by an
amount determined by the refractive index, and angle of incidence. Where a parallel beam of
light falls normally on a sheet of Perspex, the reflection factor of each surface is
approximately 4%, giving an overall transmission of about 92%.
As the angle of incident departs from the normal, the reflection losses rise, slowly at first and
then beyond 60c, very rapidly, as shown in Figure 18.
Where light falls on a sheet equally from all angles (as from a sky of uniform brightness), the
resultant integrated transmission of the sheet is approximately 85%.
Values of the fundamental optical constants of Perspex acrylic sheet are given in Table 3.
Because of its optical characteristics, and particularly that of extremely low absorption,
Perspex lends itself to the exploitation of the phenomenon of total internal reflection. The
critical angle for a Perspex/air boundary is approximately 42c, so that a beam of light can
be accepted from any angle and efficiently transmitted through long lengths of solid
Perspex. Light can be piped in this way around curves, but to prevent excessive loss, the
radius of curvature should not be less than three times the thickness of the sheet or diameter
of the rod. It is important that the surface be highly polished and free from scratches, or
surface defects, as these will cause scattering of the light and reduce the efficiency of the
system. The spectral transmission characteristics of three thicknesses of clear Perspex are
shown in Figure 20. As normally manufactured, clear Perspex contains an ultraviolet
absorber.
5.2 STRAIN OPTICAL COEFFICIENT
Perspex is widely used in engineering models to determine strain under load. A change of
1% in strain causes a change of 10-4 in birefringence. This relationship is approximately
linear up to 2% strain.
5.3 TRANSPARENT COLOURED PERSPEX
Transparent coloured Perspex is available in a wide range of colours, including neutrals.
Spectral transmission curves over the visible range for various colours are given in Figure 19.

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Figure 18
Reflection at air / Perspex surface incident light (unpolarised)

Figure 19
Spectral transmission of several transparent coloured grades in 3mm thickness.

Figure 20

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Spectral transmission of clear Perspex.

5.4 TRANSLUCENT AND OPAQUE COLOURED PERSPEX


There is a very extensive range of translucent and opaque colours available, including a
number of special effects.
5.5 WHITE OPALS
Among the most important translucent colours are the white opals; several, in varying
opacities, are available. The properties of white opal materials can be conveniently expressed
in terms of three photometric quantities the percentage transmission, the percentage
reflection and the diffusion factor. As with clear Perspex, the transmission and reflection
vary with the characteristics of the incident light. For convenience, measurements are usually
made with parallel light incident normally on the sheet, and the values given in Table 5 were
determine for this condition by the method given in Ref.4. When the incident light is diffused,
the values for percentage transmission are somewhat less, and those for percentage
reflection correspondingly greater.
The variations in percentage transmission and reflection of opal materials with change in
thickness are complex relations; the variation of transmission is represented graphically for
five opals by the curves in Figure 21. For Perspex Opal 040 these relations apply
irrespective of whether the variation in thickness is obtained using sheets of different
thicknesses, or results from thinning during shaping. With Perspex Opal 030, however, the
transmission for any given thickness will be rather greater and the reflection rather less than
the value obtained from Figure 21.
In all Perspex opal materials, the actual light loss by absorption is small, as indicated by
the light output ratios of complete spheres of uniform wall thickness made from the various
opals see Table 6. It will be seen from Table 5 and 6 that the percentage transmission of
the flat sheet does not greatly affect the light output ratio of the complete sphere.
The third photometric quantity referred to the diffusion factor is of importance in describing
the manner in which light is scattered by the sheet and this in turn affects the appearance, i.e.
it may determine whether a lighting fitting component will look uniformly bright or have an
area of higher brightness at its centre, grading to a lower brightness at its edge. The
theoretical maximum value of diffusion factor is approximately 0, 9 and it will be seen from
Table 5 that Opals 040, 050, and White 068 in a thickness of 3 mm can be regarded as
nearly perfect diffusers.

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Table 4

Table 5

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Table 6

Figure 21
Effect of sheet thickness on the percentage transmission of several opal grades.

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6. ELECTRICAL PROPERTIES
The electrical properties of Perspex are dependent upon frequency, temperature, and, to a
small extent, on the amount of absorbed water in the material. Further, properties such as
electrical strength and volume resistivity depend upon the method of test employed.
6.1 PERMITTIVITY AND LOSS TANGENT
Two methods of test are used depending upon the frequency range covered. From 30 Hz to
50 KHz, a Schering bridge may be used with a field strength of approximately 300 volts per
centimetre. Above 50 KHz and up to 100 MHz, the apparatus employed is an NPL dielectric
test set, which is described in Ref.5. The results obtained by these methods are shown in
Figure 22, 23, 24 and 25, which indicate the effect of frequency and temperature on
permittivity and loss tangent and also the effect of the water content of the specimen at a
given temperature.
A very detailed discussion on the relation between the structure of Perspex and its
dynamic, mechanical and electrical properties is given in Ref.6.

6.2 SURFACE RESISTIVITY


This property is measured by the method described in BS 771 and is carried out at 75% r.h.
and 20c, under which conditions the surface resistivity is greater than 1014 ohms.
6.3 ELECTRICAL STRENGTH
Measured on 3.2 mm Perspex immersed in transformer oil at 20c by the method
described in BS 771; under these conditions a value of 153 KV/cm is obtained at 75% r.h.
The figure falls to 149 KV/cm for Perspex immersed in water at 20oC for 24 hours.
The values quoted here, which are the result of a specific test, cannot be used as general
design data under conditions different from those of the test. For instance, Perspex tested
under the conditions described in Ref.7. was found to have an intrinsic electrical strength
approaching 10 000 KV/cm. A detailed discussion on this subject is contained in Ref.7.
6.4 VOLUME RESISTIVTY
This should preferably be referred to as the apparent volume resistivity, because this quantity,
defined as:

electric field strength


current density

is found to be strongly dependent upon the time of polarization. Values of apparent volume
resistivity are calculated from the results of current / time curves using a slide back
electrometer circuit with unconditioned material at 20oC. The results, which indicate the
dependence of volume resistivity at 20oC on time of polarization, are shown in Figure 26.

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Figure 22 Variation of permittivity with temperature and frequency.

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Figure 23 Variation of loss tangent with temperature and frequency.

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Figure 24
Variation of permittivity at 20 C with frequency and water content.

Figure 25
Variation of loss tangent at 20 C with frequency and water content.

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Figure 26
The dependence of apparent volume resistivity on time of polarization.

7. CHEMICAL RESISTANCE
Perspex has very good resistance to attack by water, alkalis, aqueous inorganic salt
solution and most dilute acids. Some dilute acids, such as hydrocyanic and hydrofluoric,
however, attack Perspex, as do concentrated sulphuric, nitric and chromic acids. It is
difficult to generalize about the effect of organic materials on Perspex; some have no effect
at all, some cause swelling, crazing and weakening of the Perspex, and some dissolve it.
Perspex is not attacked by foodstuffs and conversely foodstuffs are not affected by it.
Figures 1, 2 and 3 describe the water absorption characteristics of Perspex.
Table 8 gives an indication of the chemical resistance of clear, uncoloured Perspex as
judged by visual observation of small samples 101,6 mm x 12,7 mm x 6,35 mm immersed in
various liquids at 20oC, and in some instances at 60c.
S = Satisfactory (no effect, except possibly staining of the Perspex)
A = Some attack by, or absorption of, the liquid (light crazing or swelling of the
Perspex may have occurred but the material has retained most of its
strength)
U = Unsatisfactory (the Perspex has decomposed, dissolved, swollen, lost
strength, etc..)
NOTE: Tests on resistance to chemical attack are difficult to interpret because, as indicated,
plastics materials may be attacked in several ways, and in addition the conditions of exposure
may have an important bearing on the result. The table must therefore be used with discretion
and, in any case, it should be supplemented by tests under the actual working conditions
likely to be experienced.

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Table 8 The chemical resistance of Perspex at 20 C and 60 C.

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References:
1. Some Mechanical Properties of a Commercial Polymethyl Methacrylate, by E Hoff, J. App.
Chem. 2 August 1952.
2. An apparatus for the measurement of Dynamic Mechanical Properties of Polymers over a
wide Temperature Range, by D W Robinson, J. Sci. Inst. 32, 2 March 1955.
3. An Appraisal of the Izod Impact Test, by C E Stephenson, British Plastics, March 1977.
4. Transmission Measurements on Opal materials by P H Collins and W E Harper, Trans.
Illuminating Engineering Society (London) 20, 109, 1955.
5. Journal Inst. Elec. Eng. Vol 79 1936, p. 597.
6. Relation between Structure of Polymers and their Dynamic, Mechanical, and Electrical
Properties by K Deutch, E A Hoff, and W Reddish. Journal Pol. Sci., Vol 13, June 1954, No
72, pp 565 582 inc.
7. The Electric Strength of some Synthetic Polymers by W G Oakes. Journal Inst. Elec. Eng. Vol. 97,
Jan. 1949, p. 39.

Disclaimer:
Information given in this publication or as otherwise supplied to users of acrylic sheet
and ancillary products is based on common knowledge and is given in good faith.
Because of variations in test methods, the manufacturing process and different
manufacturing methods, values quoted are given as guide lines only, based on good
quality sheet. It is for the user to establish specific values for the product they are
using, and to satisfy themselves of the suitability of the product of their own particular
use.

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