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UC Research Into Ultraviolet Radiation Wins Rutherford Grant

UC Research Into Ultraviolet Radiation Wins Rutherford Grant

November 20, 2012

A University of Canterbury (UC) researcher has received $800,000 over five years in a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship grant looking into harnessing the ultraviolet spectrum from health and technology perspectives.

UC’s Dr Martin Allen, who received the Rutherford grant yesterday, will explore the fundamental properties and commercial device opportunities of metal oxide semiconductors which are exciting new materials that are sought after for applications such as optical displays, smart windows, electronic paper and transparent electrodes for wide-area solar cells.

Metal oxide semiconductors represent a new frontier in materials science allowing the fabrication of new electronic devices that are completely transparent.

``From a health perspective, these materials will be used to help unravel the contradictory nature of ultraviolet (UV) radiation which is far from being fully understood. There is a particular focus on delivering the next generation of wearable electronic sensors that will help provide answers to the key questions concerning the risks and benefits of UV radiation to the health of New Zealanders.

``Our vision is tuned to the visible spectrum. Infrared radiation provides life-giving warmth, while ultraviolet light has a contradictory nature. UV radiation attacks the upper layers of our skin through collagen and DNA damage causing premature skin aging and melanoma, while at the same time providing our primary means of vitamin D synthesis.

``The importance of vitamin D to our general well-being has only recently been fully recognised with vitamin D deficiency being linked to increased risks of multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, diabetes, bowel cancer, and heart disease.

``The ultraviolet climate in New Zealand is complex and impacts us in subtle ways. For Maori and Pacific Islanders the risk of vitamin D deficiency may be significantly increased while those of European origin have the highest per capita rates of skin cancer in the world.

``What we share is the need to understand the complex nature of the relationship between our health and solar ultraviolet radiation.’’

Dr Allen is working with health professionals around the world to investigate the balance between "too much" and "too little" sun and to develop school-based education programmes where students can investigate the nature of solar UV radiation for themselves.



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