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Consumer Electronics

Portable Paper-Sensor Device Helps Monitor Sun Exposure

25 May 2016

With summer just around the corner, an abundance of sun-blocking creams and sprays are hitting the store shelves. As many of us are aware, too much sun as a result of outdoor activity can cause sunburn, which is the leading cause of skin cancer.

Getting a sunburn depends on a variety of factors, which often misleads people when determining whether it’s time to get out of the sun.

A team of researchers, led by The University of New South Wales’ professor J. Justin Gooding, devised a new device that can help people stay safe in the sun.

The paper-based sensor that they created can monitor sun exposure of different skin tones and with different sunscreen levels.

Current UV sensors require high-tech gadgets to operate, such as smartphones or wearable devices. Recently, though, there have been some single-use, disposable sunburn sensors reaching the market, but some of them use substances that are potentially harmful to people or the environment, while other varieties are only good for specific skin tones.

A new device can help people monitor safe levels of sun exposure, depending on their skin tone and the amount of sunscreen applied. (Image Credit: American Chemical Society) A new device can help people monitor safe levels of sun exposure, depending on their skin tone and the amount of sunscreen applied. (Image Credit: American Chemical Society)

These unreliable methods of determining sun exposure are what prompted the team to create its own disposable sunburn sensor. The newly developed sensor is inexpensive, composed entirely of benign materials and can be easily adjusted to account for different skin tones and SPFs of sunscreens applied to the skin.

The sensor was created by inkjet printing titanium dioxide, a non-toxic and inexpensive compound, and a food dye on paper. When enough UV radiation hits the sensor, titanium dioxide causes the dye to change color, which means that people should either get out of the sun or apply more sunscreen. The sensor can be adjusted to accommodate various skin tones with the help of UV-neutral density filters that can speed up or slow down the discoloration time of the sensor.



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