Article image

Wearable UV sensors could help reduce sun damage to the skin

Monitoring your exposure to UV radiation is important for a number of reasons beyond just avoiding getting sunburned.

For some people, Vitamin D deficiency can weaken the immune system and cause depression, so monitoring sun exposure can help balance Vitamin D levels.

For other people, just limiting sun exposure isn’t enough to combat harmful UV radiation, because not all UV wavelengths impact the skin equally, and current sensors don’t differentiate between the three types of UV radiation, UVA, UVB, and UVC.

Excessive UV radiation/sun exposure can also lead to skin cancer, blindness, sunburn and causes the skin to age prematurely.

This is what inspired Vipul Bansal, a professor at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia to develop a wearable, color changing sensor that tracks vitamin absorption and UV radiation exposure to the skin.  

What’s more, the sensors come in six variations to meet the needs of different skin types from fair to dark.

The sensors can provide people with an accurate measure of how much UV their skin has been exposed to throughout the day.

Monitoring UV exposure is no small feat because everyone’s personal needs are so different and what’s healthy for one skin type may not be enough for another.

Bansal’s sensor measures UV exposure for the six skin types from Type 1 (fair skin) to Type VI (dark skin).

This aspect is crucial because Type 1 can only tolerate one-fifth of the UV exposure that Type VI can before incurring skin damage.  The sensors will be able to tell an individual when they’ve had too much UV exposure or if they need more sun to help with Vitamin D levels.

“We are excited that our UV sensor technology allows the production of personalized sensors that can be matched to the specific needs of a particular individual,” said Bansal. “The low cost and child-friendly design of these UV sensors will facilitate their use as educational materials to increase awareness around sun safety. We can print our ink on any paper-like surface to produce cheap wearable sensors in the form of wristbands, headbands or stickers for example.”

Bansal and his research team also note that the sensors can be used for other purposes besides monitoring skin exposure such as helping improve the lifetime of industrial and consumer products that wear down in the sun.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

Image Credit: RMIT University

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day