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What is "Hi-Viz"?

hi-vis hi-viz how it works infrared light radiation uv visible light

If you've landed at this web page, you probably already know the benefits of high visibility or "hi-viz" colors as it relates to traffic safety. But do you know how it works? Why do these hi viz colors POP more than other colors? Have no fear, dear reader, as I am here to inform.

Let's start with how we see colors. White light is composed of all the colors of the rainbow - Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. You can see these colors when white light passes through a prism. When white light hits an object, that object absorbs some colors and reflects others. For example, an apple will absorb all colors except for red. Red is reflected off the apple, so we see red.

White light hits a red apple, and the apple reflects red.

But there's something missing that I haven't told you... The light from the sun is much, much more than just the colors of the rainbow. These colors are in the "visible spectrum" of light from 390 to 700 nano meters. In reality, the sun doesn't just produce light. It produces electromagnetic (EM) radiation. These EM waves from the sun range from infrared (IR) on the low end of the spectrum to ultraviolet (UV) on the high end of the spectrum.

Our friends at NASA have made a neat little graphic to show the full EM spectrum.

Electromagnetic spectrum graphic from NASA

Why do I bore you with all the sciencey talk? Bear with me... We're almost to the point.

Unlike most colors in the visible spectrum, fluorescent colors reflect more than just light from the visible spectrum. Fluorescent colors absorb light in the UV spectrum and emit it in the visible spectrum! So when you see a fluorescent color, you see the normal color from the visible spectrum plus the color from UV radiation that has been converted to the visible spectrum. It's a real double-whammy of color.

When we replace the apple from our previous example with one of our hi-viz stickers from the shop, it would look more like this.

Hi Vis color reflectivity

By converting UV radiation into the visible spectrum, fluorescent colors are much brighter than traditional colors, giving them an extra POP when you see them in sunlight. That's what makes them so effective in helping motorcyclists stand out in traffic. It's hitting all the cagers with normal visible spectrum light plus some light from the UV spectrum. TAKE THAT CAGERS.

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