ASTM G178 - 09

    Standard Practice for Determining the Activation Spectrum of a Material (Wavelength Sensitivity to an Exposure Source) Using the Sharp Cut-On Filter or Spectrographic Technique

    Active Standard ASTM G178 | Developed by Subcommittee: G03.01

    Book of Standards Volume: 14.04


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    Significance and Use

    The activation spectrum identifies the spectral region(s) of the specific exposure source used that may be primarily responsible for changes in appearance and/or physical properties of the material.

    The spectrographic technique uses a prism or grating spectrograph to determine the effect on the material of isolated narrow spectral bands of the light source, each in the absence of other wavelengths.

    The sharp cut-on filter technique uses a specially designed set of sharp cut-on UV/visible transmitting glass filters to determine the relative actinic effects of individual spectral bands of the light source during simultaneous exposure to wavelengths longer than the spectral band of interest.

    Both the spectrographic and filter techniques provide activation spectra, but they differ in several respects:

    The spectrographic technique generally provides better resolution since it determines the effects of narrower spectral portions of the light source than the filter technique.

    The filter technique is more representative of the polychromatic radiation to which samples are normally exposed with different, and sometimes antagonistic, photochemical processes often occurring simultaneously. However, since the filters only transmit wavelengths longer than the cut-on wavelength of each filter, antagonistic processes by wavelengths shorter than the cut-on are eliminated.

    In the filter technique, separate specimens are used to determine the effect of the spectral bands and the specimens are sufficiently large for measurement of both mechanical and optical changes. In the spectrographic technique, except in the case of spectrographs as large as the Okazaki type (1), a single small specimen is used to determine the relative effects of all the spectral bands. Thus, property changes are limited to those that can be measured on very small sections of the specimen.

    The information provided by activation spectra on the spectral region of the light source responsible for the degradation in theory has application to stabilization as well as to stability testing of polymeric materials (2).

    Activation spectra based on exposure of the unstabilized material to solar radiation identify the light screening requirements and thus the type of ultraviolet absorber to use for optimum screening protection. The closer the match of the absorption spectrum of a UV absorber to the activation spectrum of the material, the more effective the screening. However, a good match of the UV absorption spectrum of the UV absorber to the activation spectrum does not necessarily assure adequate protection since it is not the only criteria for selecting an effective UV absorber. Factors such as dispersion, compatibility, migration and others can have a signicant inuence on the effectiveness of a UV absorber (see Note 3). The activation spectrum must be determined using a light source that simulates the spectral power distribution of the one to which the material will be exposed under use conditions.

    Note 3—In a study by ASTM G03.01, the activation spectrum of a copolyester based on exposure to borosilicate glass-filtered xenon arc radiation predicted that UV absorber A would be superior to UV absorber B in outdoor use because of stronger absorption of the harmful wavelengths of solar simulated radiation. However, both additives protected the copolyester to the same extent when exposed either to xenon arc radiation or outdoors.

    Comparison of the activation spectrum of the stabilized with that of the unstabilized material provides information on the completeness of screening and identifies any spectral regions that are not adequately screened.

    Comparison of the activation spectrum of a material based on solar radiation with those based on exposure to other types of light sources provides information useful in selection of the appropriate artificial test source. An adequate match of the harmful wavelengths of solar radiation by the latter is required to simulate the effects of outdoor exposure. Differences between the natural and artificial source in the wavelengths that cause degradation can result in different mechanisms and type of degradation.

    Published data have shown that better correlations can be obtained between natural weathering tests under different seasonal conditions when exposures are timed in terms of solar UV radiant exposure only rather than total solar radiant exposure. Timing exposures based on only the portion of the UV identified by the activation spectrum to be harmful to the material can further improve correlations. However, while it is an improvement over the way exposures are currently timed, it does not take into consideration the effect of moisture and temperature.

    Over a long test period, the activation spectrum will register the effect of the different spectral power distributions caused by lamp or filter aging or daily or seasonal variation in solar radiation.

    In theory, activation spectra may vary with differences in sample temperature. However, similar activation spectra have been obtained at ambient temperature (by the spectrographic technique) and at about 65°C (by the filter technique) using the same type of radiation source.

    1. Scope

    1.1 This practice describes the determination of the relative actinic effects of individual spectral bands of an exposure source on a material. The activation spectrum is specific to the light source to which the material is exposed to obtain the activation spectrum. A light source with a different spectral power distribution will produce a different activation spectrum.

    1.2 This practice describes two procedures for determining an activation spectrum. One uses sharp cut-on UV/visible transmitting filters and the other uses a spectrograph to determine the relative degradation caused by individual spectral regions.

    Note 1—Other techniques can be used to isolate the effects of individual spectral bands of a light source, for example, interference filters.

    1.3 The techniques are applicable to determination of the spectral effects of solar radiation and laboratory accelerated test devices on a material. They are described for the UV region, but can be extended into the visible region using different cut-on filters and appropriate spectrographs.

    1.4 The techniques are applicable to a variety of materials, both transparent and opaque, including plastics, paints, inks, textiles and others.

    1.5 The optical and/or physical property changes in a material can be determined by various appropriate methods. The methods of evaluation are beyond the scope of this practice.

    1.6 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.

    Note 2—There is no ISO standard that is equivalent to this standard.


    2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.

    ASTM Standards

    D256 Test Methods for Determining the Izod Pendulum Impact Resistance of Plastics

    D638 Test Method for Tensile Properties of Plastics

    D822 Practice for Filtered Open-Flame Carbon-Arc Exposures of Paint and Related Coatings

    D1435 Practice for Outdoor Weathering of Plastics

    D1499 Practice for Filtered Open-Flame Carbon-Arc Exposures of Plastics

    D2244 Practice for Calculation of Color Tolerances and Color Differences from Instrumentally Measured Color Coordinates

    D2565 Practice for Xenon-Arc Exposure of Plastics Intended for Outdoor Applications

    D4141 Practice for Conducting Black Box and Solar Concentrating Exposures of Coatings

    D4329 Practice for Fluorescent UV Exposure of Plastics

    D4364 Practice for Performing Outdoor Accelerated Weathering Tests of Plastics Using Concentrated Sunlight

    D4459 Practice for Xenon-Arc Exposure of Plastics Intended for Indoor Applications

    D4508 Test Method for Chip Impact Strength of Plastics

    D4587 Practice for Fluorescent UV-Condensation Exposures of Paint and Related Coatings

    D5031 Practice for Enclosed Carbon-Arc Exposure Tests of Paint and Related Coatings

    D6360 Practice for Enclosed Carbon-Arc Exposures of Plastics

    D6695 Practice for Xenon-Arc Exposures of Paint and Related Coatings

    E275 Practice for Describing and Measuring Performance of Ultraviolet and Visible Spectrophotometers

    E313 Practice for Calculating Yellowness and Whiteness Indices from Instrumentally Measured Color Coordinates

    E925 Practice for Monitoring the Calibration of Ultraviolet-Visible Spectrophotometers whose Spectral Bandwidth does not Exceed 2 nm

    G7 Practice for Atmospheric Environmental Exposure Testing of Nonmetallic Materials

    G24 Practice for Conducting Exposures to Daylight Filtered Through Glass

    G90 Practice for Performing Accelerated Outdoor Weathering of Nonmetallic Materials Using Concentrated Natural Sunlight

    G113 Terminology Relating to Natural and Artificial Weathering Tests of Nonmetallic Materials

    G147 Practice for Conditioning and Handling of Nonmetallic Materials for Natural and Artificial Weathering Tests

    G152 Practice for Operating Open Flame Carbon Arc Light Apparatus for Exposure of Nonmetallic Materials

    G153 Practice for Operating Enclosed Carbon Arc Light Apparatus for Exposure of Nonmetallic Materials

    G154 Practice for Operating Fluorescent Light Apparatus for UV Exposure of Nonmetallic Materials

    G155 Practice for Operating Xenon Arc Light Apparatus for Exposure of Non-Metallic Materials


    ICS Code

    ICS Number Code 71.040.50 (Physicochemical methods of analysis)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code


    DOI: 10.1520/G0178-09

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