What is UV Radiation? - Definition, Types & Effects

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Formulating a Viable Scientific Hypothesis

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 UV Radiation
  • 0:31 Wavelength, Frequency & Energy
  • 1:50 Types & Effects
  • 3:02 Preventative Measures
  • 3:36 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nicola McDougal

Nicky has taught a variety of chemistry courses at college level. Nicky has a PhD in Physical Chemistry.

It's summertime, and you're applying sunscreen to avoid sunburn. But did you wonder what sunscreen does and what it protects us from? In this lesson, we'll learn all about UV radiation and some of its effects.

UV Radiation

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is defined as that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum between X-rays and visible light or between 40 and 400 nanometer (nm) wavelengths. The primary source of UV radiation is the sun. There are also a number of artificial sources, such as tanning booths and halogen lights. The different sources come with some unique hazards, depending on the wavelength range of the emitted UV radiation.

Wavelength, Frequency & Energy

Before we can think more about UV radiation and its effects, it is important to revisit two very important properties of waves: wavelength and frequency.

Wavelength is the distance between two successive peaks (or troughs). Frequency is the number of waves passing a fixed point in one second. Wavelength and frequency are related by this relationship: frequency x wavelength = speed of light. The speed of light is the fastest any wave can travel, or 3.0 x 10^8 m/s. Therefore, as a wavelength gets longer, frequency must decrease to maintain this relationship. This is called an inverse relationship.

We can imagine electromagnetic radiation as a wave of light that carries energy through space. Different wavelengths of light carry different amounts of energy. In general, the longer the wavelength, the lower the energy associated with that wave. Long wavelengths also have low frequency. When you look at the electromagnetic spectrum, you'll see the wave with the highest energy is gamma radiation; it has the shortest wavelength. The lowest energy waves are radio waves. Ultraviolet radiation has a relatively short wavelength and so has relatively high energy.

Types & Effects

The three most common types of UV light are UV-A, UV-B and UV-C, as shown in this table.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account
Support