In Focus: Can sunshine melt cars?

Thermal evaluations are conducted on the product in question in order to evaluate risk.

24 September 2013

2013 has brought with it the hottest summer the United Kingdom has experienced in seven years. As a result, Londoners have been gladly flocking to the sunshine – everywhere, that is, except for London’s Central Business District where the sunshine has had an unexpected effect. Currently under construction, the nicknamed “Walkie Talkie” skyscraper, made up of approximately 33,000 square meters of glass has been allegedly reflecting such strong beams of light onto the pavement that they have been warping the panels of cars parked on the streets below.

Similar issues on a much smaller scale often arise with consumer products such as magnifying glasses, snow globes, jewellery, glass ornaments, marbles, etc. This phenomenon has highlighted an emerging, largely unregulated, hazard, in which products are creating a hazardous condition for burn injuries and fire.

In order to evaluate this risk, thermal evaluations are conducted on the product in question. This evaluation may include tests in which ‘realistic’ situations are replicated to measure the maximum potential temperature that an object can cause and the potential to result in a fire or a burn. 

In order to conduct the thermal evaluation, the product is mounted to achieve maximum concentration of sunlight on the test surface – recreating the most hazardous condition.  Measurements of surface temperature are taken under clear sky conditions in midday sun and the effects of focused sunlight on materials of interest (clothing, upholstery, simulated skin, etc.) are evaluated. 

Once these measurements of surface temperature are taken, the probability and severity of injury, as well as the risk level associated with each scenario can be determined.

Do you have a question about thermal evaluations for consumer products? Please leave your comment below and one of our experts will get back to you.

Today’s expert blogger is Jeremy Opperer, European Technical Operations Director for Intertek Risk Assessment and Management, where he has worked since 2004. He helps his clients to develop, manufacture and distribute safe products in the consumer goods market by investigating potential safety risk issues. Jeremy’s work ranges from assessments on individual products to the strategic development of corporate safety processes. Jeremy received his Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University.