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Unit 10

Electromagnetic radiation
UV Protection
What is electromagnetic radiation?
What is duality of a EM radiation?
What is a photon and how to calculate its
Description of EM spectrum: what are its
How is UV radiation measured and how to
protect from it?
1. Electromagnetic radiation

•a progressive transverse wave
•a combination of traveling electric and magnetic fields.
1.1 Electromagnetic spectrum
It includes radio waves, optical spectrum (Infrared, visible,
ultraviolet), x-rays and gamma rays (γ -rays).
Electromagnetic radiation has two characteristics:

•it is more like a wave when it propagates through space;
•but is more like a particle when light interacts with matter.
Light as wave: the rainbow

• The speed of light in a prism is
different for different
• Each wavelength represents a
Light as wave: the rainbow

• The speed of light in a prism is
different for different
• Each wavelength represents a
Wave equation:

λ = c ⋅T or λ=
λ the wavelength
f the frequency of the light f = 1 / T
T the period of the light
c=3x108 m/s, the speed of light in free space.
1.2 Wave Properties of electromagnetic radiation

1. All types of electromagnetic radiation travel
through free space at 3× 108m/s, i.e. with
the speed of light.
2. They obey the wave equation c = fλ
1.3 Particle nature of electromagnetic radiation
When an electromagnetic radiation interacts with matters,
it behaves as stream of small energy packets called
photons. During interaction, individual photon transfers
its energy to the atoms.
The energy E of each packet or photon can be calculated
by its frequency f or wavelength λ :

E = hf =
where c is the speed of light (c=3x108 m/s) in free space and
h is a constant called Planck constant, h=6.63x10-34 J-s .
The unit of photon energy E is joule (J).
Electromagnetic radiation carries energy from
one place to another by photons . When they
are absorbed by matter they cause heating and
other effects.

The higher the frequency and the smaller the
wavelength of the radiation, the greater is the
energy carried by photons, i.e. gamma rays are
more 'energetic' than radio waves.
Electron Volt
1 electron volt is equivalent to the energy of moving 1 electron
by an electric potential difference of 1 V.
∆V = 1 eV = ∆ E=∆ V x Q = 1 V x 1.6 x 10-19 C=1.6 x 10-19 J

so 1 eV = 1.6x10-19 Joule.
2. What is UV radiation?
The sun emits radiation of different wavelengths. Some of the
radiations, such as those making up the colours of raibow, have
wavelength to which our eyes respond. Beyond these
wavelengths are radiation in the UV and Infrared (IR) which our
eye cannot see.
UV radiation is of concern to us because unprotected exposure to
it can cause skin and eye damage.
2.1 Classification of UV radiation

Wavelength 315-400 280-315 100-280
(nanometer, nm)
Absorption by Penetrates the Mostly absorbed Almost all
ozone(O3) layer ozone layer by the ozone absorbed by the
layer ozone layer

Amount reaching the > 98% of UV < 2% of UV Negligible
Earth’s surface radiation is UV-A radiation is UV-B

Effects on humans and Generates Overexposure None
the environment photochemical smog induces skin
( 煙霧 ) cancer and eye
2.2 Factors that affect UV radiation
Sun elevation: the higher the sun in the sky, the
higher the UV radiation level.
Latitude: the closer to equatorial regions, the
higher the UV radiation levels.
Cloud cover: Solar UVR can penetrate through light
cloud cover, and on lightly overcast days the UV
radiation intensity can be similar to that of a cloud-
free day. Heavy cloud can reduce the intensity of
UV radiation. Scattered cloud has a variable effect
on UV radiation levels, which rise and fall as clouds
pass in front of the sun.
Factors that affect UV radiation
Altitude: at higher altitudes, a thinner
atmosphere absorbs less UV radiation.
Ozone: ozone absorbs some of the UV radiation
that would otherwise reach the Earth's surface.
Ground reflection: grass, soil and water reflect
less than 10% of UV radiation; fresh snow
reflects as much as 80%; dry beach sand about
15% and sea foam about 25%.
2.3 Health risks associated with UV
- Skin
Short-term exposure to UV radiation causes reddening of
the skin, sunburn and swelling ( 脹大 ) which may be very
– In some people this sunburn is followed by increased
production of melanin, and is recognised as a suntan.
– Tanning is a sign that damaged skin is attempting to
protect itself from further harm.
– A suntan is not an indication of good health and offers
only minimal protection against further exposure.
2.3 Health risks associated with UV
- Skin
long-term effect of UV radiation is the induction
of skin cancer.
Chronic exposure to solar radiation also causes
photoageing of the skin and actinic keratoses ( 光
化學角化癥 ). Photoageing is characterised by a
leathery, wrinkled appearance and loss of skin
elasticity while actinic keratoses is a known
precursor to squamous ( 鱗片狀 ) cell carcinomas
( 癌科 ).
2.4 Health risks associated with UV –
snow blindness
– Symptoms range from mild irritation to severe
pain and possibly irreversible damage.
Evidence that chronic exposure to intense levels of
solar radiation is a contributory factor in the
development of age-related macular degeneration
of the retina and cortical ( 皮質的 ) cateracts, both
a cause of blindness.
2.5 Health risks associated with UV –
Immune system
UV also appears to alter immune response by
changing the activity and distribution of the cells
responsible for triggering these responses.
– UV exposure may enhance the risk of infection
and decrease the effectiveness of vaccines in
– Additional research is necessary to
substantiate this.
2.6 Are there beneficial effects of UV radiation?

Some UV radiation is essential to the body as it
stimulates the production of vitamin D.
– The vitamin D has an important function in increasing
calcium and phosphorus absorption from food and
plays a crucial role in skeletal development, immune
function and blood cell formation.
– There is no doubt that a little sunlight is good for you.
But 5 to 10 minutes of casual sun exposure of hands
face and arms two to three times a week during
summer months is sufficient to keep your vitamin D
levels high.
– Closer to the equator, where UV levels is higher, even
shorter periods of exposure suffice.
3. How is UV Radiation measured?
– the standard equipment for measuring the
intensity of UV (ultraviolet) radiation at
different wavelengths.
– very expensive
Broadband UV sensor
– a widely used and inexpensive instrument for
measuring the intensity of the UV radiation
– This type of sensor has a response which
approximates the erythemal action spectrum.
Spectrophotometer (Narrow band)
The Brewer spectrophotometer at Dartmouth,
Nova Scotia, (Canada) which measures total
column ozone and high resolution UV
Broadband UV sensor
The Hong Kong Observatory's broadband UV
sensor at its King's Park Meteorological Station
3.1 What is the UV Index?
The UV Index is a measure of the solar UV
intensity at the Earth's surface relevant to the
effect on human skin. The skin-damaging by UV
radiation is governed by the erythemal
action spectrum.
This spectrum has been adopted by the
International Commission on Illumination (CIE) to
represent the average skin response over the
solar UV spectrum. 
Erythemal action spectrum
3.2 How is the UV Index calculated?
The standard way to calculate the UV Index
recommended by the World Meteorological
Organization (WMO) and the World Health
Organization (WHO) is :

measure the intensity of solar UV radiation at
different wavelengths up to 400 nanometres (Blue
line in Figure 1),
multiply these UV intensities by the weighting
factors at the corresponding wavelengths in the
erythemal action spectrum (Red line in Figure 1) to
reflect the human skin's response to each
How is the UV Index calculated?

Measured UV intensity across the solar UV spectrum (blue
line) and the erythemal action spectrum (Fig. 1)

Source : The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
How is the UV Index calculated?
sum up the products above to obtain the total
erythemally weighted UV intensity in
milliWatt/metre2, i.e. area under the red line in
Figure 2,
multiply the total erythemally weighted UV
intensity by 0.04 to obtain the UV Index.
How is the UV Index calculated?

Fig. 2 Total erythemally weighted UV intensity. (Area under the
red line)

Source : The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The UV Index is a measure of the intensity of UV from
the sun. The table shows the UV Index values with the
corresponding exposure categories set by the World
Health Organization.
On a day with a higher UV Index rating, the skin is
more likely to be damaged. In Hong Kong, the UV Index
can often exceed 10 on a sunny summer day. During the
period with clouds and rain, the UV Index will be lower.
3.3 Suntan and Sunburn
UVA causes sun-tanning
– UVA penetrates both our epidermis and
dermis skin layers. Since the basal layer (the
last layer) of the epidermis and the prickle-
cell layer (the first layer) of the dermis both
contain melanin cells (melanocytes), these two
layers of cells are stimulated simultaneously
by the UVA rays to produce more
melanocytes to prevent the harmful effects
of the UV rays against the underlying cells.
– Tanning-beds in beauty salons also emit UV-
A rays to produce quick tans.
– However, the energy in UV-A is weaker than
in UV-B. That is why the tan doesn't last
long (ususally disppeared after one to three
weeks), and that is also why UV-A doesn't
cause sun-burn on its own.
Suntan and Sunburn
UVB's energy is much greater than UV-A's,
and thus, it causes the burning sensation very
– However, the penetration level of UV-B is
only upto the epidermis. Thus, UV-B causes
only the epidermal layer (that is, only one
layer) to multiply the production of its
melanin cells. That is why a tan is not
produced as instantly as exposure to UV-A
– Due to its high energy, UV-B rays once
absorbed into the skin do not deplete quickly,
but retained for a long time. UV-B
accumulates to cause a slow 'tan' which
results in delayed pigmentation of the
skin(that is, those unsightly brown blocky
Tan without burn (or less degree of burn)
By exposure to a salon's sun-tanning bed (which
emits only UV-A rays).
By applying a sunscreen that blocks out only the
UV-B rays.
– Some screens even contain active ingredients to speedify
the taning effect, by amplifying the UV-A rays
penetration. There are also suntan products which can
amplify tanning - and within 10 to 15 minutes - under room
lighting, without exposure to the sun. Such products are
often named as suntan lotions (milk, or the like).
So do not get mixed up between suntan and
sunscreen products
3.4 Common misconceptions
A suntan is healthy.
– A tan results from your body defending itself
against further damage from UV radiation.
A tan protects you from the sun.
– A dark tan on white skin offers only limited
protection equivalent to an SPF of about 4.
You can’t get sunburnt on a cloudy day.
– Up to 80% of solar UV radiation can penetrate
light cloud cover. Haze in the atmosphere can
even increase UV radiation exposure.
Common misconceptions
You can’t get sunburnt while in the water.
– Water offers only minimal protection from UV
radiation, and reflections from water can
enhance your UV radiation exposure.
UV radiation during the winter is not dangerous.
– UV radiation is generally lower during the
winter months, but snow reflection can double
your overall exposure, especially at high
altitude. Pay particular attention in early spring
when temperatures are low but the sun’s rays
are unexpectedly strong.
Common misconceptions
Sunscreens protect me so I can sunbathe much longer.
– Sunscreens should not be used to increase sun exposure time
but to increase protection during unavoidable exposure. The
protection they afford depends critically on their correct
If you take regular breaks during sunbathing you won’t get
– UV radiation exposure is cumulative during the day.
Common misconceptions
If you don’t feel the hot rays of the sun you won’t
get sunburnt.
– Sunburn is caused by UV radiation which cannot
be felt. The heating effect is caused by the
sun’s infrared radiation and not by UV radiation.