NSSN scientists invent skin patch that can prevent sunburn

NSSN researchers from the University of NSW and the University of Sydney have developed a skin patch that tells the wearer when it's time to seek shade or reapply their sun screen.

The research breakthrough takes the guesswork out of preventing sunburn with a skin patch that tells the wearer when it's time to seek shade or reapply their sun screen.

Researchers from the NSSN announced the breakthrough on Wednesday as part of wider research that will change how we measure the contamination of the air and potential improvements to healthcare.

Justin Goodin from UNSW said the cost-effective skin patch had a clear practical purpose for the Australian climate. 

"As you know we put the sunscreen on and we believe it works and we get told that we have to reapply it but we don't really know if we've received too much sun or not and we don't really know if it's a good idea to get out of the sun," Professor Gooding said. "So it just takes the guess work out."

The technology uses a special ink that fades when the wearer's skin is about to burn.

"Hopefully, it allows parents to know when it's time to get their little ones out of the sun at the beach," Professor Gooding said. "It just gives people certainty." 

The ink on the patches can be adjusted depending on the wearer's own sensitivity to the sun's UV radiation. 

"We can adjust the time it takes depending on the skin type and its effect so what we're doing is correlating those two things," Professor Gooding said.

This technology, one of a number of innovations developed by the NSW Smart Sensing Network, will help ensure the sun safety of swimmers as well as outdoor workers.

Unfortunately, this year's beach crowds will have to make do on their own, but the new protection should be on the market soon.

Network researchers will also announce a technology that will allow users to predict the toxicity of air pollution using their mobile phones.

University of Sydney professor Benjamin Eggleton said the technology would use sensors near rail corridors to determine how the air quality varied.

"We need to understand whether the rail corridor does indeed contaminate the air around the rail and to what level," Professor Eggleton said. "The outcomes from our project will be recommendations to inform policy regulations."

Read the full news story on the Sydney Morning Herald news site.

Inka-Maria Bane