Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Melanin's 'trick' for maintaining radioprotection studied

Sunbathers have long known that melanin in their skin cells provides protection from the damage caused by visible and ultraviolet light.

More recent studies have shown that melanin, which is produced by multitudes of the planet's life forms, also gives some species protection from ionizing radiation. In certain microbes, in particular some organisms from near the former nuclear reactor facilities in Chernobyl, melanin has even been linked to increased growth in the presence of ionizing radiation.

Research at the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River National Laboratory, in collaboration with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has provided insights into the electrochemical mechanism that gives the complex polymer known as melanin its long-term radioprotective properties, with a goal of using that knowledge to develop materials that mimic those natural properties.

A recent article in the journal Bioelectrochemistry (Bioelectrochemistry 82 (2011) 69-73) relates how the researchers established that ionizing radiation interacts with melanin to alter its oxidation-reduction potential, resulting in electric current production.

Radiation causes damage by stripping away electrons from its target. "Over time, as melanin is bombarded with radiation and electrons are knocked away, you would expect to see the melanin become oxidized, or bleached out, and lose its ability to provide protection," said Dr. Charles Turick, Science Fellow with SRNL, "but that's not what we're seeing. Instead, the melanin continuously restores itself."

The team's research took them one step closer to understanding that self-restoration mechanism. They demonstrated that melanin can receive electrons, countering the oxidizing effects of the gamma radiation. The work showed, for the first time, that constant exposure of melanin to gamma radiation results in electric current production.

Mimicking that ability would be useful, for example, in the space industry, where satellites and other equipment are exposed to high levels of radiation for long spans of time. "Looking at materials, a constantly gamma radiation-oxidized electrode consisting in part of melanin would continuously accept electrons, thereby resulting in a current response," Turick said. "If we could understand how that works, we could keep that equipment working for a very long time."

SRNL is DOE's Office of Environmental Management's national laboratory at SRS. SRNL puts science to work to support DOE and the nation in the areas of environmental management, national and homeland security, and clean energy. The management and operating contractor for SRS and SRNL is Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC.

Angeline (Angie) French | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Did you know that infrared heating is an essential part of automotive manufacture?
25.10.2016 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH

nachricht New method increases energy density in lithium batteries
24.10.2016 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Enormous dome in central Andes driven by huge magma body beneath it

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Deep down fracking wells, microbial communities thrive

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>