Polycarbonate vs. Trivex eyeglass lenses
When eye safety is a concern, lenses made of polycarbonate or Trivex are the best choice for your eyeglasses, sunglasses and sports eyewear. These lenses are significantly more impact-resistant than other lenses and:
Are lighter and thinner than regular plastic lenses
Block 100% of the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays
Polycarbonate was first developed and used for aerospace applications. Astronaut helmet visors and space shuttle windshields are two products made of polycarbonate.
The lightweight, impact-resistant material was later adapted for use in eyeglass lens manufacturing.
Polycarbonate lenses are now the industry standard for safety glasses, sports goggles and children's eyeglasses. They also are a great choice for rimless eyeglasses (which have minimalistic frames that are attached to the lenses with small drill mountings.)
Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic that starts as a solid material in the form of small pellets. During lens manufacturing, the polycarbonate pellets are heated until they melt. The liquid polycarbonate is then injected into lens molds, compressed under high pressure, and cooled to form a finished lens. The entire process takes only a few minutes.
Trivex is another lightweight, impact-resistant material for eyeglass lenses. PPG Industries developed the product in 2001. Like polycarbonate, Trivex is an excellent choice for safety applications and children's eyewear.
Trivex lenses are made of a urethane-based monomer. They are produced using a slower, cast molding process (similar to how regular plastic lenses are made). The liquid lens material is slowly baked until it sets. This gives Trivex lenses sharper optics than polycarbonate lenses, according to PPG.
Polycarbonate vs. Trivex lenses compared
Here's a brief summary of the differences between polycarbonate and Trivex eyeglass lenses:
Thickness. Polycarbonate lenses are about 10% thinner than Trivex lenses.
Weight. Trivex lenses about 10% lighter than polycarbonate lenses.
Optics - central. Trivex lenses have less internal stress than polycarbonate lenses. This might produce sharper central vision.
Optics - peripheral. Trivex lenses have a higher Abbe value than polycarbonate lenses. This may produce sharper peripheral vision and fewer colored halos around lights.
Impact resistance. Polycarbonate and Trivex lenses have comparable impact resistance.
UV protection. Polycarbonate and Trivex lenses both block 100% of the sun's UV rays without the need for special UV-blocking lens coatings.
Availability. Polycarbonate lenses are available in a wider variety of lens designs than Trivex lenses. (Photochromic lenses are available in both materials.)
Cost. Polycarbonate and Trivex lenses can vary considerably in price. But Trivex lenses tend to cost more than polycarbonate lenses.
A professional optician can discuss the pros and cons of polycarbonate and Trivex lenses with you in greater detail and help you decide which lenses best meet your needs.
Polycarbonate and Trivex lenses are both very impact-resistant. But the surfaces of both lenses will become easily scratched if they are not treated with a protective scratch-resistant coating.
Modern scratch-resistant coatings can harden the surface of polycarbonate and Trivex lenses, making them as scratch resistant as glass. Also, ask your optician about a scratch warranty to protect your investment in the lenses.
Best frames for polycarbonate and Trivex lenses
When it comes to eye safety, polycarbonate and Trivex eyeglass lenses are only part of the solution. For the best eye protection, also choose high-quality safety frames or frames designed for sport eyeglasses.
Regular eyeglass frames are not rated for use as safety glasses. Also, they typically don't provide the type of eye protection needed for sports. Playing sports while wearing an eyeglass frame that's not rated for sports eyewear is dangerous. It can result in a serious eye injury if the frame breaks.
For children's eyewear, choose a sturdy frame and lightweight polycarbonate or Trivex lenses. Even if your child doesn't participate in organized sports, choosing impact-resistant eyeglass lenses and frames helps protect your child's eyes for any activities.
Page published in February 2019
Page updated in September 2021