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Polycarbonate polycarb impact resistant bullet proof glass

Polycarbonate vs. Glass

Comprehensive Comparison


Polycarbonate and glass are two materials with diverse properties and applications, each offering distinct advantages and limitations. In this comprehensive comparison, we will delve into the properties, functions, advantages, and limitations of polycarbonate and glass to help you make informed decisions for your specific projects.


  1. Transparency and Clarity:

    • Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate is transparent, but it does not achieve the same level of optical clarity as glass. It typically transmits around 90% of visible light. While it provides good visibility, it might not be as optically clear as glass.

    • Glass: Glass is renowned for its unparalleled optical clarity. It offers exceptional transparency, allowing nearly 90-92% of visible light to pass through. Its unmatched clarity is often considered the benchmark for transparency.

  2. Impact Resistance:

    • Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate is celebrated for its remarkable impact resistance. It is virtually unbreakable and can withstand significant impacts without shattering. This property makes it indispensable in safety and security applications.

    • Glass: Glass is known for its lack of impact resistance. It can shatter into sharp fragments when subjected to significant force, making it less suitable for applications where safety and impact resistance are paramount.

  3. Chemical Resistance:

    • Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate offers good chemical resistance but can be vulnerable to some solvents and chemicals, such as certain organic compounds and oils. It may undergo chemical degradation over time when exposed to harsh substances.

    • Glass: Glass is chemically inert and highly resistant to most chemicals. It does not undergo chemical degradation even when exposed to harsh substances, making it suitable for laboratory and chemical applications.

  4. Temperature Tolerance:

    • Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate has a higher heat resistance compared to glass. It can withstand temperatures up to 120°C (250°F) without significant deformation. This property makes it suitable for applications involving temperature fluctuations.

    • Glass: Glass has excellent heat resistance and can withstand high temperatures without significant deformation. It is commonly used in applications involving extreme heat, such as cookware and laboratory glassware.

  1. Design and Aesthetics:

    • Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate offers good clarity and impact resistance, making it valuable for applications where aesthetics and safety are essential but optical clarity is not the primary focus. It is commonly used for safety shields, machine guards, and protective covers.

    • Glass: Glass is renowned for its timeless elegance and exceptional optical clarity. It is often chosen for high-end applications where aesthetics and visual appeal are paramount, such as windows, mirrors, and decorative elements.

  2. Safety and Security:

    • Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate excels in safety and security applications due to its superior impact resistance. It is virtually unbreakable and is commonly used for riot shields, protective helmets, and safety barriers.

    • Glass: Glass is not as impact-resistant as polycarbonate and can shatter into sharp fragments when subjected to significant force. However, tempered and laminated glass varieties are designed to improve safety and security.

  3. Environmental Considerations:

    • Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate is considered less environmentally friendly than glass. Its production involves the release of greenhouse gases, and it is not as readily recyclable as glass.

    • Glass: Glass is more environmentally friendly than polycarbonate. It is recyclable and can be recycled indefinitely without losing quality.

  4. Cost-Effectiveness:

    • Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate is generally more affordable than glass, especially in applications requiring impact resistance. This cost-effectiveness makes it a practical choice for various projects.

    • Glass: Glass, especially specialty and high-quality varieties, can be expensive. However, it offers longevity and a premium aesthetic that may justify the higher cost in certain applications.

  1. Polycarbonate Advantages:

    • Unmatched impact resistance, making it shatterproof

    • Excellent heat resistance

    • Superior chemical resistance compared to some plastics

    • Suitable for safety and security applications

    • Can be thermoformed into complex shapes

  2. Glass Advantages:

    • Unparalleled optical clarity and timeless aesthetics

    • Excellent chemical resistance

    • Superior heat resistance

    • Environmentally friendly and recyclable

    • Longevity and resistance to scratching


  1. Polycarbonate Limitations:

    • Less optical clarity compared to glass

    • Vulnerable to some solvents and chemicals

    • Production involves greenhouse gas emissions

    • Not as environmentally friendly as glass

  2. Glass Limitations:

    • Lack of impact resistance

    • Brittle and prone to shattering upon impact

    • Can be expensive, especially for specialty types

    • Heavier than polycarbonate


Polycarbonate and glass are both valuable materials with unique properties and functions. The choice between them should be based on your specific project requirements. Polycarbonate excels in applications where exceptional impact resistance, heat resistance, and cost-effectiveness are crucial. In contrast, glass is chosen for its timeless aesthetics, unmatched optical clarity, and environmental sustainability.

When selecting between polycarbonate and glass, consider factors such as the intended use, budget, environmental concerns, safety requirements, and aesthetics. Both materials have their strengths and weaknesses, and the decision ultimately depends on which properties align best with your project’s needs, whether you prioritize aesthetics, safety, or environmental considerations. Whether option you choose, Beacon Hill Glass can help you with your project needs and can provide assistance with more information and installation.

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Credit: American Acrylics

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