To evaluate the efficiency of the photopolymerization of dental resins it is necessary to know to what extent the light emitted by the light curing units is absorbed by the photoinitiators. On the other hand, the efficiency of the absorbed photons to produce species that launch the polymerization process is also of paramount importance. Therefore, the previously determined PAE (photon absorption efficiency) is used in conjunction with the polymerization quantum yields for the photoinitiators, in order to be able to compare the total process on an equivalent basis. This parameter can be used to identify the best performance for the photochemical process with specific photoinitiators. The efficiency of LED (Ultrablue IS) and QTH (Optilux 401) lamps were tested comparing their performances with the photoinitiators camphorquinone (CQ); phenylpropanedione (PPD); monoacylphosphine oxide (Lucirin TPO); and bisacylphosphine oxide (Irgacure 819). The extent of photopolymerization per absorbed photon was determined from the polymerization quantum yields obtained by using the photoinitiators to polymerize methyl methacrylate, and afterwards combined with the previously determined PAEs. Although CQ presents a rather low polymerization quantum yield, its photopolymerization efficiency is practically the highest when irradiated with the Ultrablue LED. On the other hand, Lucirin is much more efficient than the other photoinitiators when irradiated with a QTH lamp, due to its high quantum yield and the overlap between its absorption spectrum and the output of the visible lamp light. Difference in photopolymerization efficiencies arise when combinations of photoinitiators are used, and when LED sources are used in preference to QTH. Mechanistic understanding is essential to optimal initiator formulation.
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