Shining a burst of light on melanin interactions

Originally published 16 March 2015 on Nature Middle East.

Researchers at King Saud University in Riyadh will use attosecond laser technology to take a closer look at melanin and how it works.

The first experiment at a brand new laboratory aims to reveal the microscopic mechanisms that allow melanin to protect skin against hazardous UV radiation.

Attosecond Science Laboratory (ASL) at the King Saud University (KSU) will be the first in the Arab world to use cutting-edge attosecond laser technology able to generate ultrashort pulses of light, lasting just a few billionths of a billionth of a second, that can capture images of otherwise invisible electrons within atoms.

The researchers will first fire a femtosecond laser pulse that simulates sunshine, followed by another probe attosecond pulse to track the effect of the first burst of light on the system. A spectroscopic system will then capture the interaction of light with matter and analyse it.

The lead researcher, Adil Haseeb, wants to better understand the conductivity and photoconductivity responses of melanin in different physical states: solid, paste, and liquid.

“More specifically, how does this molecule prevent UV photons from breaking bonds and changing molecular structure and hence function?” says co-researcher Ferenc Krausz. “Electrons in the melanin molecule have to play a fundamental role in these mechanisms.

Read more at
Nature Middle East, March 2015.

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