Summer may be coming to a close in Florida, but the sun doesn't stop shining in the sunshine state. And, summer is just beginning for the other side of the world.

A team of international scientists has found an environmentally friendly way of producing potential sunscreens by using cashew shells, which are normally thrown out.
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The team of "green chemists" from the University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa, along with colleagues from universities in Germany, Malawi, and Tanzania, have been working on techniques to produce useful compound from fast growing, non-edible plant waste. This process is known as is xylochemistry, more commonly known as wood chemistry.

By using the shells from cashews, the team has produced new aromatic compounds that show good absorption of both UVA and UVB. This may be applied to the protection of humans from the sun's harmful rays as well as polymers or coatings.

Their research was featured on the cover of the European Journal of Organic Chemistry.

While it leads to sunburn, premature aging, and the development of potentially deadly skin cancer in both humans and animals, UV rays are also damaging to most materials. The effects to discoloration of dyes and pigments, weathering, the yellowing of plastics, the loss of gloss, and the loss of mechanical properties.
An umbrella made from sustainable materials can help shield you from UV rays and fight off sun damage.

To lessen UV damage, sun shields should display a high absorption of both UVA and UVB rays. But one important family of molecules for absorption are derived from phenols. They contain a molecule which is important for the transformation of the absorbed energy from one type to another.

An organic compound, for example, known as oxybenzone is a common ingredient added to plastics to reduce UV breakdown. Unfortunately, its petrochemical origin, which means it comes from petroleum or natural gas, has major effects on aquatic ecosystems. These are associated with poor biodegradeability.

Due to this, stricter regulations are being placed on sun filtering products.

"With the current concerns over the the use of fossil resources for chemical synthesis of functional molecules and the effect of current UV absorbers in sunscreens on the ecosystems, we aimed to find a way to produce new UV absorbers from cashew nut shell liquid as a non-edible, bio renewable carbon resource. Cashew nut shells are a waste product in the cashew-farming community, especially in Tanzania, so finding a useful, sustainable way to use these waste products can lead to completely new, environmentally friendly ways of doing things."

Wits School of Chemistry Professor and Principal Author of the paper Charles de Koning

The team has already filed a patent application to commercialize the process in South Africa.