Clarkson University Team Discovers New Way to Protect Against Sunburns

A small patch you wear on your body could be the next big thing when it comes to protecting your skin against UV light exposure. A team of researchers at Clarkson University have discovered a custom bioink that can be 3D printed into a skin safe UV sensor. This sensor could one day be used as a new safety tool against sunburns.

Photo provided by Allevi Inc.

Silvana Andreescu, Professor and Egon Matijevic Endowed Chair of Chemistry and Biomolecular Science and members of her lab, graduate student Abraham Finny and undergraduate student Cindy Jiang, recently published their findings in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces (

Around 1.7 million new skin cancer cases are diagnosed each year in the United States as a result of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Most exposure to UV radiation is intermittent with varying levels. Due to this, Andreescu and her team saw the need for a technology that can provide detection in a timely manner at the time of exposure, but also be small, portable, and low-cost. Since the wearable technology would require contact with humans, the materials had to be biocompatible, and the device must be simple to use and portable.

“We decided to explore the capabilities of 3D bioprinting to manufacture these wearable UV-responsive sensors, as 3D printers have become inexpensive and accessible,” Andreescu said.

3D bioprinting has allowed researchers to produce biological structures such as organs, tissues, and scaffolds. The Clarkson team proposed the use of 3D bioprinting as an additive manufacturing technique to print wearable and functional sensors for consumer use. The method enabled the one-step fabrication of sensors that are reproducible, mechanically stable and ready to use.

“We combined gelatin and other materials, including titanium into a colorful, photoactive, printable ink. When the titanium is activated by UV light, like from the sun, the dye degrades and changes color, indicating exposure,” Andreescu said.

Aside from protecting your skin from damaging UV rays, the group says the sensors could also be applied to the field of UV sanitation. The sensor could be used to indicate if a piece of clothing or a tool was exposed to enough UV light to consider the object sanitized.More details on this work can be found at: or

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