Fully-biobased UV-absorbing nanoparticles from ethyl cellulose and zein for environmentally friendly photoprotection†
Effective photoprotection is a vital consumer issue. However, there are many concerns regarding the adverse environmental and health impacts associated with current organic and inorganic UV filters. Here, we prepare fully-biobased UV-absorbing nanoparticles from ethyl cellulose (ECNPs) and zein (ZNPs) with encapsulated biobased photoprotectants obtainable from plants and foods (quercetin, retinol, and p-coumaric acid), which have the potential to satisfy both environmental and health issues in photoprotection. We show the ability of ECNPs and ZNPs to be easily tuned compositionally to obtain uniform, broadband UV spectrum absorbance profiles, and prepare transparent UV-absorbing coatings from the ECNPs. We find that the maximum loadings for retinol, quercetin, and p-coumaric acid into the ECNPs are 31 wt%, 14 wt%, and 13 wt% respectively. The ECNP size remains constant (except for the largest loading of retinol, 31 wt%) and the absolute zeta potential increases upon increasing the loading of quercetin and retinol, whereas increasing the loading of p-coumaric acid results in increasing the particle size and a lower absolute zeta potential. We find that quercetin and retinol are effectively retained inside the ECNPs at 64–70% after 72 hours. These results have significant implications for the development of novel photoprotection technologies and functional nanoparticles.