What is the Difference Between Perspex and Polycarbonate

Perspex and polycarbonate are two transparent thermoplastics people often use as alternatives to traditional glass. Perspex is a brand name for acrylic, whereas polycarbonate is a separate type of plastic.

What is the difference between Perspex and polycarbonate? Perspex is clear and rigid and useful for applications requiring transparency and strength, like signage and display cases. On the other hand, polycarbonate offers exceptional impact resistance and durability, making it useful for more rugged applications such as safety glazing and bulletproof windows.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Perspex  
      – Definition, Features, Applications
2. What is Polycarbonate
      – Definition, Features, Applications 
3. Similarities Between Perspex and Polycarbonate
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Perspex and Polycarbonate
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Perspex and Polycarbonate
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Perspex, Polycarbonate, Thermoplastic, Acrylic, Polymethyl Methacrylate, PMMA

Difference Between Perspex and Polycarbonate - Comparison Summary

What is Perspex

Perspex, also known as acrylic or polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), is a transparent thermoplastic often used as a lightweight and shatter-resistant alternative to glass. This material has exceptional clarity, allowing for excellent light transmission and optical properties. Developed in the early 20th century, Perspex has found widespread applications in various industries due to its unique combination of properties.

One of Perspex’s key attributes is its durability. It is highly resistant to impact, making it a preferred choice for items where safety is paramount, such as protective barriers, safety glazing, and eyewear lenses. Additionally, Perspex has excellent weathering properties, resisting discoloration and degradation from prolonged exposure to sunlight.


Its versatility extends beyond its transparent qualities. Perspex can be easily molded into different shapes, making it suitable for a range of applications, from intricate designs in art and architecture to functional uses like signage and displays. The ease of fabrication and ability to be laser-cut or machined contribute to its popularity in the manufacturing sector.

In terms of maintenance, Perspex is relatively simple to clean and can be polished to restore its original luster. This makes it a practical choice for consumer goods, such as furniture, picture frames, and household items.

Despite its numerous advantages, Perspex does have some limitations. It can scratch more easily than glass, and over time, it may develop a hazy appearance if not properly cared for.

What is Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate is a durable thermoplastic polymer renowned for its transparency, high impact resistance, and heat tolerance. Developed in the mid-20th century, it has since found widespread applications across various industries. Its transparency, comparable to glass, makes it a popular choice for items like eyewear lenses, optical discs, and electronic display screens.

One of the key features of polycarbonate is its exceptional impact resistance, making it nearly unbreakable. This property, coupled with its lightweight nature, has led to its extensive use in manufacturing safety equipment, such as bulletproof windows, safety glasses, and protective gear. Moreover, its ability to withstand high temperatures without deformation or melting expands its utility in applications like automotive components, electrical connectors, and kitchenware.

Polycarbonate Sheet

Polycarbonate is also known for its UV resistance, making it suitable for outdoor applications without degradation due to sunlight exposure. This attribute makes it a preferred material for constructing greenhouses, roofing materials, and outdoor signage.

The polymer’s versatility extends to its moldability, allowing for designs and customization. Its ease of processing through injection molding or extrusion contributes to its prevalence in various consumer products, from water bottles and food containers to electronic casings.

Despite its numerous advantages, polycarbonate is not without drawbacks. It can be prone to scratching, and over time, exposure to certain chemicals may lead to degradation.

Similarities Between Perspex and Polycarbonate

  1. Perspex and polycarbonate are both transparent thermoplastics commonly used as alternatives to glass.
  2. Both have high optical clarity.

Difference Between Perspex and Polycarbonate


  • Perspex is a brand name for acrylic glass, which is a transparent thermoplastic. Polycarbonate, on the other hand, is another type of transparent thermoplastic but with a different chemical composition.

Impact Resistance

  • Polycarbonate is generally more impact-resistant than Perspex, making it suitable for applications where durability and resistance to breakage are crucial. Perspex is strong but may be more prone to cracking upon impact compared to polycarbonate.


  • Perspex often has slightly better optical clarity, providing a clearer view through the material. Polycarbonate, while transparent, may have a slightly lower optical clarity compared to Perspex.


In conclusion, while both Perspex and polycarbonate serve as transparent alternatives to glass, they differ significantly in terms of composition, impact resistance, and optical clarity. Perspex is valued for its optical clarity and versatility, finding applications in design, architecture, and consumer goods. On the other hand, polycarbonate stands out for its superior impact resistance, making it a preferred choice for safety equipment and outdoor applications. Each material has its strengths and limitations, catering to diverse needs across various industries.

FAQ: Perspex and Polycarbonate

1. Is Perspex the same as glass?

Perspex could be considered a type of glass. For many people, mineral glass is real glass in comparison to acrylic glass (also known as plexiglass or Perspex), which is considered artificial glass.

2. What is Perspex used for?

Perspex is commonly used for signage, display cases, picture frames, aquariums, and various other applications requiring transparency and rigidity.

3. Is Perspex cheaper than glass?

In general, Perspex (acrylic) tends to be less expensive than glass, especially for large or custom pieces. However, pricing can vary based on factors such as thickness, size, and quality.

4. What is polycarbonate used for?

Polycarbonate is commonly used for applications requiring high-impact resistance and durability. Some common uses include safety glasses, bulletproof windows, greenhouse panels, roofing materials, automotive components, and protective covers for electronics.

5. What are the disadvantages of polycarbonate?

Polycarbonate can scratch easily, degrade in UV light, and is more expensive than other plastics. These factors may impact its suitability for certain applications and budgets.


1. “Polycarbonate.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.
2. “Frequently asked questions about Perspex® acrylic.” The Plastic Shop.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Scrap Acrylic” By (CC BY 2.0 DEED) via Flickr
2. “פלזית פוליגל” By Tomerafek – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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