Mystery of natural sunscreen solved

Spanish scientists have established how natural products protect plants from sun damage. The compounds could be used as active ingredients in sunscreens.

Using computational techniques on palythine – a compound found in coral – as a model compound, Diego Sampedro at the University of La Rioja, Logroño, investigated what happens to the molecule after it absorbs UV light.

Mystery of natural sunscreen solved

Sampedro found that when UV light was shone on palythine, the molecule rapidly dissipated the light energy into heat energy without forming reactive, harmful, photoproducts. He looked at the mechanism in detail on both the protonated and neutral forms of palythine, as scientists were unsure which form was active in the coral. He found that both forms underwent a bond rotation to transform light into heat energy, but the protonated form was responsible for the main absorption of the radiation.

Mike Robb of Imperial College, London, an expert in computational chemistry, praises the timeliness of the study. “MAAs are already being studied as industrial photostabilisers. Understanding the details of the mechanism should help in the design of such species”.

Want to find out more?

Read the rest of the Chemistry World story by Yuandi Li

Or view the PCCP article by Diego Sampedro:
Computational exploration of natural sunscreens
Diego Sampedro, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2011
DOI: 10.1039/c0cp02901g

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