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UV Experiment - Blocking UV Rays

See how old prescription bottles have the power to block UV rays.

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Don’t throw away your old prescription bottles. Solar science educator, Jim Stryder, shares a unique method of demonstrating the "power" of ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) for K-12 students using our Color Changing UV Beads and a plastic prescription bottle.

  • One of those brownish prescription bottles
  • Some of our Color Changing UV Beads
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Upon refilling a prescription at his local pharmacy, Jim Stryder, a solar science educator, noticed a marking on his brown prescription bottle that read – “UV BLOCKING PLASTIC.” Being the solar science enthusiast he is, Jim immediately filled an empty prescription bottle with Energy Beads. To his amazement, the bottle blocked out nearly 100% of the UV light! Come to find out that many drugs are sensitive to damaging UV light, so the bottle is specially designed to preserve the life of your prescription.

Jim Stryder suggests testing a variety of plastic bottles and transparent containers to see which ones block out the UV rays the best. Hmmm… this sounds like the making of a great new science fair project!

"I use all the various types and colors of medicine bottles I can find to test the different screening properties of the various bottles," says Jim Stryder. "Sometimes I use assorted bead colors, other times I use only one color of bead. The beads come in various colors like red, yellow, blue, purple, and orange. You can test the UV blocking power of bottles yourself by comparing various types of common products, like different plastic/glass bottles, even water bottles, because their "thickness" levels do vary with design and will show different levels of UV exposures."

Virtually nine out of ten students have never seen ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) demonstrated this way! It's a sure bet to put a smile on your students' faces as they learn about ultraviolet rays. 

How Does It Work?

UV Beads have a chemical substance embedded into the plastic that will change color when exposed to UV radiation (sunlight). The beads will remain white indoors as long as they are kept away from windows or doors where UV light can “leak” into the room. Many prescription bottles have a chemical embedded into the brownish plastic that blocks out almost 100% of the UV light that might cause damage to the medicine. Using the UV Beads as a substitute for the medicine in the prescription bottle is a great way to test how effectively the bottle blocks the UV rays.

Additional Info

Science Fair Connection:

Jim Stryder's idea would be great to explore for a science fair project. However, you can't just put UV Beads in a prescription bottle and call your project finished. If you just put the beads in the bottle to show that the bottle blocks the UV rays, you've merely demonstrated that concept -- it is a science demonstration, not an experiment. To make the UV Beads and prescription bottle activity a science fair project, you have to change something (identify a variable), run some more tests, and make some comparisons.

  • Find several different types of medicine bottles and test to see which one is the most effective in blocking the damaging UV rays. Be sure to use the same number and color of UV Beads and expose the beads to the light through the bottle for the same amount of time to standardize the conditions as much as possible.
  • Examine the UV blocking powers of other types of bottles, such as plastic vs. glass bottles or different brands or styles of water bottles. 
  • What else claims to have UV blocking powers? Sunglasses? Window tinting films? Camera lens filters? Sunscreen? Choose a variable and run some tests to see if the UV blocking claims are true. For example, are polarized sunglasses really that much better than regular sunglasses at blocking out the harmful UV rays of the sun?

There are many ways to use UV Beads for a science fair project. We have written up a sample science fair experiment called The Sunscreen Factor that walks you through a project step-by-step. If you are interested in a simple, straightforward, and quick science fair project, be sure to check it out. It doesn't do the work for you... you wouldn't want that anyway, right? It does give you a template to follow to ensure that you use the scientific method, control your variables, and document your discoveries.

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