The inspiration for the research has come from the fact that an increasing body of evidence is pointing to the environmental impact of sunscreens.
In particular, environmentalists have pointed to the damage that sunscreens have on coral reefs, threatening the delicate ecosystems because some of the active ingredients are not biodegradable.
Development of a biodegradable sunscreen
It was with this problem in mind that a team of scientists from Sweden, Spain and Australia set to develop novel UV-protective materials that exclusively consist of natural compounds that are more easily biodegradable.
The scientists turned to the natural sunscreen molecules found in algae and other reef microorganisms, and combined them with chitosan, a biopolymer from crustacean shells – and the results of the study have been published in the current edition of the American Chemical Society’s Applied Materials & Interfaces journal.
The scientists say that they specifically chose chitosan as the matrix for grafting mycosporines and mycosporine-like amino acids as the functional components for active materials for the sunscreen.
These mycosporines are secondary compounds produced by aquatic organisms in environments where there is high amounts of sunlight and UV radiation, and are commonly described as microbial sunscreens.
Testing showed strong UV protection
According the authors of the report -Vincent Bulone and Susana C. M. Fernandes – the resulting compound was biocompatible, photoresistant, and thermoresistant, while also exhibiting a highly efficient absorption of both UV-A and UV-B radiations.
The authors concluded with their belief that the same concept can be applied to other biopolymers besides chitosan and could ultimately be used to product multifunctional materials.
Ultimately, the study concludes that the this discovery could have the potential be exploited in a broad range of applications in living organisms and nonliving systems, and ultimately could be applied to further the development of biodegradable sunscreens.