Although it calls for greater regulation of nanotechnology are louder than ever, scientific research on its commercial applications carries on at a pace. The latest discovery sees scientists modifying nanomaterials using nanotechnology to enhance the light-absorbing properties of titanium oxide. The researchers at the US Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory said that nano-cavity filled titanium oxide nanorods were 25 per cent more efficient at absorbing UVA and UVB solar radiation than titanium oxide without nanocavities. The scientists introduced miniscule holes into the already tiny titanium oxide nanorods using a simple technique. "We simply heat titanate nanorods in air. This process evaporates water, transforming titanate to titanium oxide, leaving very densely spaced, regular, polyhedral nanoholes inside the titanium oxide," said scientist Wei-Qiang Han. If it efficiently absorbs UVA radiation the nano-enhanced titanium oxide has definite commercial potential because the current crop of sunscreens has been criticized by the Environmental Working Group and the FDA for not providing adequate protection against UVA. "Our research demonstrates that titanium oxide nanorods with nanocavities can dramatically improve the absorption of UVA and UVB solar radiation, and thus are ideal new materials for sunscreen." Han added. Despite the potential of the new research, nanotechnology remains controversial and many high profile organisations such as the Royal Society in the UK have expressed concerns about its safety. The scientific body said nanomaterials should be treated as potentially hazardous materials. Recently, Friends of the Earth went one step further by calling for a moratorium on the commercial release of nanomaterials.
By creating cavities in titanium oxide nanorods, scientists claim to have made the sunscreen ingredient able to absorb more UVA and UVB solar radiation.