Scientists are turning to thenatural sunscreen of algae– which is also found in fishslime – to make a novel kindof shield againstthe sun’srays.

Reporting in the American Chemical Society’s journal, the team report that existing sunblock lotions typically work by either absorbing ultraviolet rays or physically blocking them. They say that a variety of synthetic and natural compounds can accomplish this but most commercial options have limited efficiency, pose risks to the environment and human health or are not stable. Vincent Bulone, Susana C. M. Fernandes and colleagues looked to nature for ways of tackling the problem. The researchers used algae’s natural sunscreen molecules, which can also be found in reef fish mucus and microorganisms, and combined them with chitosan, a biopolymer from crustacean shells. Testing showed their materials were biocompatible, stood up well in heat and light, and absorbed both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation with high efficiency. The authors were funded by European Commission Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship, the KTH Advanced Carbohydrate Materials Consortium (CarboMat), the Swedish Research Council for Environment,Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS) and the Basque Government Department of Education.