American Chemical Society
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Excited-State Dynamics of Isolated and Microsolvated Cinnamate-Based UV‑B Sunscreens

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journal contribution
posted on 2015-12-17, 03:18 authored by Eric M. M. Tan, Michiel Hilbers, Wybren J. Buma
Sunscreens are aimed at providing protection from solar UV radiation. However, the same mechanism that underlies this protection (absorption of UV radiation) is also responsible for their light-induced adverse effects. Here, high-resolution spectroscopic methods are applied to one of the most commonly used sunscreen chromophores to study the excited-state dynamics that determine the delicate balance between favorable and adverse effects. In contrast to common belief, we find that excitation to the “bright” ππ* state does not directly lead to repopulation of the electronic ground state. Instead, internal conversion to another electronically excited state identified as the “dark” nπ* state is a major decay pathway that impedes fast energy dissipation. Microsolvation studies of sunscreen chromophores with water demonstrate that under such conditions, this bottleneck is no longer present. These observations could be a first step toward the development of sunscreens with improved photochemical properties.