Chemical technology news from across RSC Publishing.
Sunburn detection is hot work
03 March 2009
UK scientists have developed UV-sensitive indicators that change colour when there is a danger of sunburn.
Over 70,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with skin cancer each year and sunburn is a contributing factor. The signs of sunburn can take between four to eight hours to develop, by which time the skin is already damaged. While there are several UV dosimeters on the market, most are unable to distinguish between different skin types. Also, they show a gradual colour change in response to sun exposure, which makes identifying the sunburn risk difficult. Andrew Mills and colleagues from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, have created what they claim is a 'simple, inexpensive, unambiguous sunburn indicator' that can be tuned to different skin types.
The indicator changes colour before the skin starts to burn
Mills' indicator uses a UV-driven acid-release agent coupled to a pH-indicating dye. Sunlight decomposes the acid-release agent leading to protonation of the dye, which causes a striking colour change. The length of time before the colour changes can be altered by using different acid-release agents or dyes, explains Mills, meaning that the indicator could be varied for use on all skin types.
- Peter Robertson, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK
As an alternative to this indicator, Mills has also made a blue indicator based on a tin oxide photocatalyst, which reduces a dye and becomes colourless on exposure to sunlight. 'The inorganic pigment materials match the way the skin absorbs UV radiation,' says Mills.
'It is the simplicity of the chemistry, and its ability to work on all skin types, that makes this research so effective,' comments Peter Robertson, an expert in photocatalysis at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK. He adds how 'gratifying it is to see academic science coming up with a solution that is going to have an impact on society'.
Mills says he is optimistic that these indicators will become commercially available but adds that the greatest challenge will be getting our sun-loving society to accept them.
Enjoy this story? Spread the word using the 'tools' menu on the left or add a comment to the Chemistry World blog.
Link to journal article
Flagging up sunburn: a printable, multicomponent, UV-indicator that warns of the approach of erythema
Andrew Mills, Kate McDiarmid, Michael McFarlane and Pauline Grosshans, Chem. Commun., 2009, 1345
UV dosimeter based on dichloroindophenol and tin(IV) oxide
Andrew Mills and Pauline Grosshans, Analyst, 2009, 134, 845
Also of interest
Paolo U Giacomoni
In an era of global warming knowledge of the effects of solar radiation on humans is of great importance and the latest discoveries in environmental photobiology are presented in this book.
An infrared imaging technique that can distinguish different types of skin cancer has been developed by scientists in France
Chemists trade white coats for wetsuits to test lab-on-a-surfboard
Odour profile could lead to hand-held cancer 'sniff test'