Acrylic glass, also known as Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) is a low-cost transparent plastic material more commonly referred to as plexiglass. It is very similar to polycarbonate, though not quite as strong. It is one of the clearest and transparent plastics available on the market today.

Acrylic glass was first produced in 1928 and introduced to the market by the Rohm and Haas company. One of the first commercial applications of acrylic was during War World II in airplane windows, turrets, canopies, and submarine periscopes as medical personnel found that airmen whose eyes were injured by shattered acrylic glass fared much better than those who had been injured by shattered regular glass.

Today, acrylic glass is used in many applications. Some examples include acrylic nails, lenses, LCD screens, windows, aquarium tanks and even enclosures around zoo exhibits. In fact, the 10 meters deep Monterey Bay Aquarium tank has acrylic windows up to 33 cm thick.

Unlike its counterpart, polycarbonate, acrylic does not contain the harmful compound Bisphenol A (BPA) which is known endocrine disrupter and harmful to the environment.

Acrylic glass is considered a thermoplastic, meaning that it responds well to heat. Acrylic becomes liquid at its melting point (160 degrees Celsius). What makes acrylic so useful is the fact that it can be heated to its melting point, cooled, then reheated again with minimal degradation in its quality allowing for recycling of the material.

Acrylic glass is made by distilling hydrocarbon fuels into a lighter group known as “fractions”. These fractions are then combined with other catalysts to produce plastics through a process known as polymerization.

Although acrylic was first produced in 1928, the breakthroughs in material science that led to its discovery started way back in 1843 when acrylic acid was first discovered. Today, acrylic is produced by several large firms and in several well-known variants like Plexiglass, and Lucite produced by ELF Atochem and Dupont, respectively.

Acrylic glass is available in a large variety of colors produced by dyeing. The raw material is excellent at the transmission light, allowing 92 percent of light to pass through it which is nearly as good as glass. This makes acrylic glass a very good substitute in commercial applications.

Acrylic PMMA has a high degree of compatibility with human tissue and is used in the manufacturing of rigid intraocular lenses which are used to replace the original lenses that are damaged by cataracts. Acrylic PMMA induces much less inflammation making it a viable treatment option for those with recurrent ocular inflammation (uveitis).

Acrylic is also used in Orthopedic medicine as a substance called bone cement. It is used to fasten implants in the remodeling of lost bone.

In cosmetic surgery, microscopic acrylic microspheres suspended in a biological medium are injected under the skin to produce permanent wrinkle and scar reduction. Acrylic PMMA can also be implanted as artificial “muscles” in bodybuilders.

Lastly, some other notable uses for acrylic glass include the spectator protection glass in ice hockey arenas, police vehicles used for riot control and in the lenses of the exterior lights of cars.