Paper bracelets can protect us from UV rays exposure

Australia has come up with a simple device for more mindful and safer sunbathing. The device is a bracelet that monitors prolonged exposure to UV radiation.  

An effective and low-cost solution for sun protection

With skin cancer on the rise, sun protection has become increasingly more important. Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have invented a simple paper bracelet that uses UV active ink to sense exposure to UV rays. The special ink in this simple device becomes darker as it is exposed to UV rays, indicating the risk of sun overexposure.  Moderate exposure is indicated by a smiley that gradually becomes a sad smiley when it’s time to get out of the sun. The different smiley faces appear on the bracelet in sequence the longer the wearer is exposed to UV rays, thanks to the use of phosphomolybdic acid (PMA), a substance that is initially transparent and gradually becomes blue in the presence of lactic acid and UV radiation. The study was published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Unlike many other research projects, this simple device is designed to be low-tech and low-cost. It is also available for every skin type. Different versions have been designed for the various skin types considering that darker complexions tolerate sunlight for longer periods of time.


How the bracelet reacts to UV radiation

Researchers have used an ink-like substance made up of lactic acid and PMA to print four invisible smileys on paper.  It has been demonstrated that the ink turns a darker tone of blue in the presence of UVB rays than in the presence of UVA rays within the same period of time. This means the higher the percentage of UVB rays transmitted by the sun, the faster the bracelet will indicate the levels of sun exposure. “We are always concerned whether we are exposing ourselves too much to the sun, and we might get skin cancer […], but if we don’t expose ourselves enough to the sun we take the risk of being vitamin D deficient. We should be able to measure our personal exposure levels”, explains the main author of the study, Vipul Bansal. By changing the number of film filters for each of the four smileys, researchers have been successful in personalizing bracelets for each of the six skin types. We now hope that devices like these will be widely used and that they will increase general awareness on the risks of prolonged exposure to UV radiation.  

© Domedica s.r.l.

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