Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


English ivy may give sunblock a makeover

Nanoparticles in ivy may hold the key to making sunscreen safer and more effective.

When Mingjun Zhang was watching his son play in the yard, he was hit with a burning question: "What makes the ivy in his backyard cling to the fence so tightly?"

That simple question has led to a pioneering discovery that the tiny particles secreted from ivy rootlets can be used in many breakthrough applications in items such as military technologies, medical adhesives and drug delivery, and, most recently, sun-block.

Zhang, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, along with his research team and collaborators, has found that ivy nanoparticles may protect skin from UV radiation at least four times better than the metal-based sunblocks found on store shelves today.

"The discovery of ivy nanoparticles' application to sunscreen was triggered by a real need. While hearing a talk at a conference about toxicity concerns in the use of metal-based nanoparticles in sunscreen, I was wondering, 'Why not try naturally occurring organic nanoparticles?'" Zhang said.

Zhang speculated the greenery's hidden power lay within a yellowish material secreted by the ivy for surface climbing. He placed this material onto a silicon wafer and examined it under an atomic force microscope and was surprised by what they found -- lots of nanoparticles, tiny particles 1,000 times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. The properties of these tiny bits create the ability for the vine leaves to hold almost 2 million more times than its weight. It also has the ability to soak up and disperse light which is integral to sunscreens.

"Nanoparticles exhibit unique physical and chemical properties due to large surface-to-volume ratio which allows them to absorb and scatter light," Zhang said. "Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are currently used for sunscreen for the same reason, but the ivy nanoparticles are more uniform than the metal-based nanoparticles, and have unique material properties, which may help to enhance the absorption and scattering of light, and serve better as a sun-blocker."

The team's study indicates that ivy nanoparticles can improve the extinction of ultraviolet light at least four times better than its metal counterparts. Furthermore, the metal-based sunscreens used today can pose health hazards. Zhang notes some studies have shown that the small-scale metal oxides in sunscreen can wind up in organs such as the liver or brain.

Ivy nanoparticles, on the other hand, exhibit better biocompatibility with humans and the environment. The team's studies indicate that the ivy nanoparticles were less toxic to mammalian cells, have a limited potential to penetrate through human skin, and are easily biodegradable.

"In general, it is not a good idea to have more metal-based nanoparticles for cosmetic applications. They are a significant concern for the environment. Naturally occurring nanoparticles originated from plants seem to be a better choice, especially since they have been demonstrated to be less toxic and easily biodegradable," Zhang said.

Sunscreens made with ivy nanoparticles may not need to be reapplied after swimming. That's because the plant's nanoparticles are a bit more adhesive so sunscreens made with them may not wash off as easily as traditional sunscreens. And while sunscreens made with metal-based nanoparticles give the skin a white tinge, sunscreens made with ivy nanoparticles are virtually invisible when applied to the skin.

Zhang worked with assistant professor Zhili Zhang, graduate student Lijin Xia, and post-doctoral research associates Scott Lenaghan and Quanshui Li in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering.

Whitney Holmes | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

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...

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

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>