Save the Skin You're In


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  • 1Short Project Description 
  • 2Summary 
  • 3About MeAbout Our Team 
  • 4Question / Proposal 
  • 5Research 
  • 6Method / Testing and Redesign 
  • 7Results 
  • 8Conclusion / Report 
  • 9Bibliography, References and Acknowledgements 

This project has the potential to save hundreds of millions of lives from the effects of skin cancer and Vitamin D deficiencies. It achieves this through the UV optimising “Opti-D package”. My inventions include devices that measure personalised UV exposure for optimum Vitamin D synthesis, a  smart-phone app to  optimise times for sun exposure and a database computer program to forward plan UV exposure and educate the user about UV to change their behaviours and attitudes. This package could help to save billions of dollars spent in our health systems worldwide on these preventable diseases.


Save the Skin You’re In !


This project provided a complete assessment, measurement and educational tool for the analysis of solar Ultraviolet Radiation (UV). Specifically, this work designed methods to find the optimal amount of UV a person should be exposed to, for minimisation of health risks, such as skin cancer (too much UV) or vitamin D deficiency (too little UV). At present, above 60% of Australians and 20% of US Citizens will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Moreover, above 30% of Australians and 40% of US citizens are currently vitamin D deficient. The Opti – D calculator package provides the necessary tools to significantly reduce these numbers and could save billions of health dollars by educative prevention of these solar UV related diseases.


Measurements were made to calculate standard UV exposures and well as UV transmission properties through clothing. Global UV index databases where accessed and manipulated to calculate and ascertain UV exposure levels worldwide to produce global UV exposure indication software for analysis and education of current UV exposure requirements for optimal Vitamin D synthesis. New and novel Opti – D UV dosimeters were developed which provide a quantitative measure of UV exposure required for Vitamin D synthesis. This allows the user to accurately receive the correct amount of UV exposure for their skin type for optimal health benefits. A UV exposure time calculator was also developed to predict the time required for solar UV exposure for optimal health benefits.

Hi, my name is Ethan Butson. I am 17 years old and live in Mangerton, NSW, Australia. My school is The Illawarra Grammar School where I am currently completing my HSC. It's great and only just around the corner from where I live. I love tennis, playing the guitar and music.  I have loved science all my life and have continually questioned everything in order to understand and sometimes improve. I am inspired by great minds who can make science fun and exciting like Dr Karl Kruszelnicki who I had the pleasure of meeting a few years ago. He inspired me to question everything and improve what I can, one step at a time.


Winning a prize in the Google Science fair would be so inspirational to me. I think the best part of it would be the publicity for my products and ways to improve our knowledge of skin cancer reduction techniques and vitamin D synthesis optimisation.

Hundreds of millions of people are affected by diseases caused by solar Ultraviolet radiation.  This includes excessive exposure to UV causing diseases such as skin cancer, cataracts and other degenerative skin effects. Under exposure to UV caused vitamin D deficiencies which in turn causes many diseases including heart disease, bone disease and cancer.  In the US alone, billions of health dollars are spent on these preventable diseases and hundreds of millions of lives are affected.

The best source of Vitamin D comes from the sun in UV radiation. So we require a small amoutn of UV but not too much. But how do we know if we are getting "Just the Right" amount.

This became the essence and aim of my project. To develop a system and package that could measure, calculate and plan ways to obtain "just the right" amount of UV for optimal health and save millions of lives from the effects of skin cancer and vitamin D deficiency diseases.

My hypothesis was that I could achieve this goal with a "package" of inventions which could measure UV radiation personally to the correct amounty for Vitamin D synthesis. Invent programs and phone app to allow the user to know exactly how long to spend in the sun and create a computer database program to forward plan your UV exposure in the future to significantly reduce your risks of UV under and over exposure. I have called this package the "Opti-D Package".

l   2 out of 3 Australians (1 in 5 for US) will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. l   The major contributing factor is Ultraviolet (UV) radiation. l   However, 1 in 3 Australian's (2 in 5 for US) are now Vitamin D deficient. l   It’s the colossal solar UV paradox. Too much or too little are both detrimental to your health. Billions of health dollars are spent each year, in the US alone, on these preventable diseases. Solar ultraviolet radiation (UV) is becoming increasingly dangerous to people as its irradiance level increases with ozone depletion (Diffey 1982). UV-A (400nm-320nm), UV-B (320nm-290nm) and UV-C (290nm–200nm) form the UV spectrum. Today, it is known that too much of all forms of UV radiation can be detrimental to humans. However, it is also known that we require some UV-B radiation to synthesize Vitamin D. Past research has shown that UVB radiation is required for the effective synthesis of Vitamin D in the human body.  THe level or degree of synthesis depends on the penetration of the UVB into our skin. As such, people with different skin colour synthesise vitamin D at different rates. Fitzpatrick created a skin colour scale (I to VI) to differentiate certain types of skin. THis ranges from very pale / always burns skin (type I) to very dark / never burns (Type VI). THis scale can be used to evaluate how much UV someone requires to produce enough vitamin D for their needs. Any more UV would be considered too much. Various researchers have used methods to mesure UV radiation using solid state detectors as well as film style detectors. For a personal dosimeter, the best chararcteristics for measurements would be easy to wear and allow the user to self measure the level of UV exposed to.  Other researchers have calcualted exactly how much UV is required for vitamin D synthesis per skin type.   Now utilising this information, I decided that I could develop a method or a package that could perform all the tasks required for measurement of UV radiation for optimal Vitamin D synthesis whilst allowing the user to not over expose themsleves. There did not seem to be any packages or approaches currently designed for this task.   I had invented a method for measuring UV radiation with a film type detector in previous years. I decided that I could redesign this detector to measure low levels of UV radiation, the levels required for vitamin D synthesis for the differnet skin types. Also, utilising the known level sof UV required for vitamin D synthesis , I began to create software tools that could calculate how much UV you were being exposed to , anywhere in the world, accessable through  smart phone app so that everyone could measure and therefore time how long they should be in the sun for optimal sun exposure.    

Design Brief -  Rationale and Aims


1. Create a research program / computer application to estimate personal UV exposure.


2. Empower people to change their attitude and behaviour towards UV exposure.


3. Assess personal UV exposure utilising variables such as time, month, GPS position, clothing type and moisture content.


4. Program needs to be easy to use, accessible to the public and in a format that has an aesthetically pleasing and easy to understand Graphical User Interface (GUI).


5. Design and create a personalised UV dosimeter for accurate measurement of UV exposure to optimise Vitamin D synthesis (for all skin types). Ultimate aim : Create a 3 part package for UV measurement, estimation and calculation to provide an accurate method for people to optimise their UV exposure and minimise disease risk.


  Design Options – Methodology and Criteria


  Option 1.  Time of Day/ Month of Year – UV intensity varies throughout the day and year. Collect, assess and  translate hourly UV index data into usable UV exposure.


  Option 2.  Clothing and moisture content – Assess UV transmission through multiple fabric types. Utilise  data for assessment and calculation of UV protection properties of clothing within program.


Option 3.  Creation of “The Opti-D Dosimeter” – Create a UV sensitive exposure badge which accurately measures optimal UV for Vitamin D synthesis.


Option 4. Creation of  “The Opti-D Time Calculator” – Create a Smartphone / computer application for immediate prediction of optimal time required in the sun for UV based Vitamin D synthesis.


Option 5.  Creation of “The Opti-D Calculator” – Create a user friendly database/program to  ascertain personal UV exposure for future and past analysis.


I have spent over 6 years creating and working on devices that can accurately measure UV radiation. Utilising these skills and devices I have been able to invent a device which can accurately measure UV exposures specifically designed for levels required for Vitamin D synthesis in the 6 different skin types.  Combining this with a smart phone app and a computer program that can calculate the exact amount of UV required for vitamin D synthesis and time required in the sun to achieve this. To analyse if the appropriate values and measurements were correct, I have calibrated my UV dosimeters against sophisticated solid state UV dosiemeters. These meters were also used to measure the levels of UV predicted by the smart phone app and computer program for UV estimation. I have also compared my results to government agency measurements of UV index and reported values in capital cities such as Sydney , Australia. My results have proved to be accurate within 10% and can be used world wide.

1. Invention of the Opti-D Dosimeter


1. The Opti-D dosimeter provides UV exposure requirement Colour matching for Fitzpatrick skin type  1–6. .I.e. all people can accurately measure their personal UV exposure requirements.

2. New film design – New sensitive film based on a leuco-cyanide dye. THe badge is my invention and created by myself. First of its kind to be optimised for Vitamin D synthesis level sof UV exposure.

3. Accuracy of UV measurement ( ± 10%).

4. Badge design specifically tailored for UV exposure levels required for Vitamin D synthesis.

5. Easy and inexpensive for daily use.


2. Opti-D Time Calculator App

1.   Use anywhere in real time mode.

2.   All skin types accounted for.

3.   Quick and accurate results obtained.

4.   Applicable to mobile devices.

5.   Usable world wide using GPS.


3. Opti-D Calculator


1.  Allows users to forward plan and predict their UV exposure levels.

2.  Provides a graphical representation of the user’s personal UV exposure.

3.  Can optimise user’s time in the sun by demonstrating over or under exposure to UV.

4.  Optimises Vitamin D synthesis, whilst minimising risk of skin cancer  and other degenerative diseases.

5.  Provides significant health cost savings through reduced burden  of disease.

6.  Allows for accurate estimation of typical UV exposure.

7.  Is easy to use and understand.

8.  Is a world first.



Opti-D Package Evaluation


The three point package provides coverage for all aspects of UV exposure measurement and Vitamin D optimisation.

1.  Measures optimal sun exposure with the Opti-D Dosimeter (±10%).

2.  Estimates time required in sun for optimal Vitamin D synthesis with  the Opti-D Time Calculator.

3.  Educates the user with the Opti-D Calculator for UV exposure optimisation to empower them to change their behaviours and attitudes.

4.  Through combined use of the Opti-D package, reduces solar UV induced diseases thus increasing health of population and reduce the burden of disease on our health system.

The three point package provides coverage for all aspects of UV exposure measurement and Vitamin D optimisation. 1.  Measures optimal sun exposure with the Opti-D Dosimeter (±10%). 2.  Estimates time required in sun for optimal Vitamin D synthesis with  the Opti-D Time Calculator. 3.  Educates the user with the Opti-D Calculator for UV exposure optimisation to empower them to change their behaviours and attitudes. 4.  Through combined use of the Opti-D package, reduces solar UV induced diseases thus increasing health of population and reduce the burden of disease on our health system.


By analysis, calculation and measurement of many parameters involved with solar ultraviolet radiation exposure, an effective method to optimise solar UV exposure has been created. The goal to minimise UV exposure, thus reduce or even prevent the risk of skin cancer and other degenerative effects of UV radiation, along with optimising the appropriate level of UV exposure for Vitamin D synthesis can been achieved. Through the use of the Opti-D Calculator package, people can calculate their current or future UV exposure levels to evaluate their activities thus providing the basis for educated self regulation of solar UV exposure. This empowers people to assess their own activities and behaviours to provide the optimal outcomes for themselves, thus reducing the social and economical burdens caused by diseases associated with either too much or too little UV exposure.


The Opti-D Time  Calculator App places this knowledge in everyone’s hands providing an immediate measure and educational tool for solar UV smart lives. The future looks much brighter with the Opti-D Calculator package.  


Future work on this project would be to further improve the access of the Opti-D calculator package for worldwide use. The package is currently available for smart phones and excel based computer.  Vitamin D can also be accessed through vitamin supplements. This would be a great addition to the Opti D calculator package by allowing a user to input their comsumed level of Vitamin D. In this way, we can further control and monitor UV exposure and vitamin D levels to reduce skin cancer and vitamin D deficiency diseases.




I have performed all work, experimentation and research by myself. I analysed all of the data and created all of the graphs. The creation of “The Opti-D Calculator” was all of my work. The creation of the “Opti-D Dosimeter” was all my own work.  Creation and design of the “Opti-D Time Calculator” is all my own work. I have received help from Yan Yurkin, Computer programmer, to code the Opti D Time calculator into java code for the smartphone application. My father, Martin Butson, provided some proof reading over the project. All UV Index data was collected by ARPANSA and TEMIS and is freely available for use on their websites.



Diffey BL. Solar ultraviolet radiation effects on biological system. Phys Med Biol. 1991; 36(3): 299-328.


Skin Cancer Foundation 2012, Ozone and UV Where Are We Now, Skin Cancer Foundation,


Fitzpatrick TB. The validity and practicality of sun reactive skin types I through VI. Arch Dermatol. 1988; 124: 869-871.


Skin Cancer Foundation 2012, Melanom, Skin Cancer Foundation, 


Australian Bureau of Statistics 2004, 1301.0 – Yearbook Australia 2004 – How many people live in Australia’s coastal areas?, Australian Government,


Cancer Council Australia 2012, Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide, Cancer Council Australia,


Urbach, F. 1991, Biological response to ultraviolet A radiation, Valdenmar Publishing Company, KS USA pg 275-276



Wang SQ, Kopf AW, Marx J, Bogdan A, Polsky D, Bart RS., Reduction of ultraviolet transmission through cotton T-shirt fabrics with low ultraviolet protection by various laundering methods and dyeing: clinical implications., J Am Acad Dermatol. 2001 May;44(5):767-74.


Parisi AV, Wilson CA., Pre-vitamin D effective ultraviolet transmission through clothing during simulated wear.Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2005 Dec;21(6):303-10.



Ravishankar J, Diffey B., Laboratory testing of UV transmission through fabrics may underestimate protection. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 1997 Oct-Dec;13(5-6):202-3.



Construction of Materials and UV effects,  Accessed June 2012.



Effects of Dye type and stretching on UV absorption,, Accessed June 2012.



Effects of material fiber type on UV blocking , D. Saravanan PROTECTION TEXTILE MATERIALS, AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 7, No 1, March 2007,  accessed June 2012



Effects of Wetness on UV absorption  :, accessed June 2012.



A.V. Parisi2,*, L.R. Meldrum1, J.C.F. Wong1, J. Aitken3, R.A. Fleming1 LIFETIME ULTRAVIOLET EXPOSURE ESTIMATES FOR SELECTED POPULATION GROUPS IN SOUTH EAST QUEENSLAND (A.V. Parisi2,*, L.R. Meldrum1, J.C.F. Wong1, J. Aitken3, R.A. Fleming1 )

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