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Ultraviolet Radiation

Ultraviolet Radiation

Ultraviolet means “above violet.” The electromagnetic frequencies of ultraviolet radiation (UV) extend upward from violet, the highest-frequency visible light. Ultraviolet is also produced by atomic and molecular motions and electronic transitions. The wavelengths of ultraviolet extend from 400 nm down to about 10 nm at its highest frequencies, which overlap with the lowest X-ray frequencies. It was recognized as early as 1801 by Johann Ritter that the solar spectrum had an invisible component beyond the violet range.

Solar UV radiation is broadly subdivided into three regions: UV-A (320–400 nm), UV-B (290–320 nm), and UV-C (220–290 nm), ranked from long to shorter wavelengths (from smaller to larger energies). Most UV-B and all UV-C is absorbed by ozone (\({\text{O}}_{3}\)) molecules in the upper atmosphere. Consequently, 99% of the solar UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface is UV-A.


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