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How much sunlight did you get today? Cheap personalized sensors could help answering this question

Posted October 4, 2018

Sun can be beneficial for us, but it can also be damaging. You want to get your daily dose of vitamin D, but you don‘t want to get a dangerous amount of sun exposure. UV radiation can be harmful, but how to know that you got enough and should go indoors or put some additional sunscreen? Scientists from RMIT University in Australia developed single-use wearable UV sensors to solve this exact problem.

These wearable UV sensors are based on a special ink, which can be printed on any paper-like material. Image credit: RMIT

In the core of this technology there is an ultraviolet (UV) active ink that changes colour when exposed to different types of UV rays. This ink can be printed on any paper-like material, which can then be used to make bracelets, headbands or just simple stickers. It comes in six variations to reflect the range in human skin tone, because different skin absorbs UV radiation differently. Scientists say that this technology could help solving a very old problem – how to get enough of sunlight without the excessive risk of sunburn, skin cancer, blindness, skin wrinkling and premature signs of aging.

The need of vitamin D is highly personal. You have to know your skin type in order to at least estimate the time you should spend in the sun. Darker skin typically reflects sunlight better, while very pale people should be very careful in bright sunlight. Then there is a problem of diseases such as lupus that reduces people’s ability to absorb vitamins through diet. This is where this sensor comes in, because it allows for highly personalized solutions, since the technology is just basic printing.

Professor Vipul Bansal, creator of this sensor, suffered from the vitamin D deficiency himself. He said: “We are excited that our UV sensor technology allows the production of personalised sensors that can be matched to the specific needs of a particular individual. The low cost and child-friendly design of these UV sensors will facilitate their use as educational materials to increase awareness around sun safety”.

Interestingly, these sensors will find use beyond their medical application. Scientists are saying that they could be used to monitor UV exposure of a variety of items, such as industrial equipment and consumer products. Because the core of this technology is UV-sensitive ink, sensors themselves are quite cheap, although they are single-use only. They could also be useful in monitoring UV exposure of vehicles and military equipment, which could actually help saving some money.

Sunlight is great until it isn’t. It causes cancer and premature aging – the later point affects both people and equipment. Personalized sensors would be a great solution, but the question remains – would people wear them?


Source: RMIT

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