Engineers Create Bracelet That Warns Against Sunburn

The device goes from blue to clear when it has been exposed to too much ultraviolet light.


A new device warns users when they’ve been exposed to too much UV light. Photos Credit: Pandiyan V on Flickr, via Creative Commons

Getting a sunburn might become a thing of the past if chemical engineers at Queen’s University Belfast have their way. Dr. David Hazafy and his team have developed an early sunburn indicator that contains ‘smart’ ink. 

The strip, which can be worn on the wrist as a bracelet, starts off blue. When the bracelet turns colorless, it signals to the user that he or she should move away from the sun to avoid being exposed to too much ultraviolet light.

How the sunburn indicator works

The device integrates photocatalyst technology, which relies on light to modify a particular substance. This in turn alters the rate of a chemical reaction. Photocatalysis can be used, for example, to change the color of dyes or even to destroy pollutants.     

“The sunburn indicator works by using a photocatalyst and a redox dye in which the former absorbs the ultraviolet light and uses its energy to drive the change in the color of the dye,” the device’s creator, Hazafy of Queen’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, said in a statement. “The sunlight, or the total UV component, is collected throughout the day so the user is aware of the total dose of the harmful irradiation received by the band and warned when it nears the level which causes sunburn.”

David Hazafy

David Hazafy. Source: Queen’s University

Other industries want to integrate photocatalysts

Hazafy is a recipient of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s enterprise fellowship. Each fellow is awarded up to £85,000 in funding to turn their research into products that have real-life applications. Hazafy’s goal is to make his product available to the masses.

“Based on a metal oxide photocatalyst, this simple and inexpensive sunburn indicator should warn people when they are receiving too much of the UV component of sunlight, and prompt them to seek shade,” Hazafy added.

The chemical engineer is currently collaborating with companies in various industries (such as healthcare, consumer products and clothing manufactures). He’s helping them learn how they might be able to integrate photocatalysts into their practices.