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UV Beads: Making a creative solar flare.

UV Beads, Colour Changing Beads

We’ve always been taken by the power of crafting in education but we never thought that a simple range of UV beads, could have such an impact on both creative flair and the education of astronomy and UV light. UV beads are made up of a compound that changes from white to bright and vivid colours when exposed to UV and sunlight. The beads have defied standard craft practices by being a major component in a global experiment, ‘Mission Starlight’. The beads have also been a popular choice for school teachers and organisations, who want to educate on the dangers of the sun and UV light.




Mission Starlight

Mission starlight is a global experiment, being run by the Royal Society of Chemistry. The experiment’s objective is to find the best possible material to make space suits and visors out of, to protect astronauts against powerful UV rays that are experienced when in orbit. The experiment encourages any group or individual to take part, with the components and instructions required to participate, easily available online and inexpensive too.

Participants are requested to source some UV beads and use them as the main component of the experiment. The beads change colour when exposed to UV rays and sunlight, making them the ideal material to test the effectiveness of certain materials to block UV rays. The test is conducted by the participants putting our UV beads in petri dishes and exposing them to sunlight, following this they then select various materials to block the UV rays and make a comparison of which was most effective. The effectiveness is measured by determining which materials stopped the beads changing colour the most, if at all. The results are shared online through a global database where participants can compare their data, receive a participating certificate from the society and gain exclusive access to a video from astronaut Tim Peake.


UV Light & Skin Cancer Awareness

Another trend that we have seen recently, is the large number of UV beads being ordered to help educate children about skin cancer and sun block awareness. School teachers, organisations and extra-curricular group leaders have been buying UV beads in their 1000’s over the past few months, with the intention of teaching young people about the harmful effects of UV rays, in a creative and engaging way.

One popular activity with children has been for them to make a bracelet out of the beads, and then to see the change of the colours when walking into daylight/sunlight. Furthering this activity some teachers have asked pupils to cover their bracelets with sun-cream, demonstrating the importance of wearing sun lotions. The physical changes in the beads, heighten the child’s understanding and awareness of the dangers and presence of UV light. In the same vein, we have recently supplied 18,000 UV beads to Yorkshire Cancer Research, for their education day where 600 school children will be taught in a fun and creative way.

Nivea, a leading skin care product brand have also adopted a very creative way of using UV beads, to educate on skin cancer and UV awareness. They commissioned artist Simon Fernandes to make a unique billboard artwork out of UV colour changing beads. The results are unbelievable and we love any craft that can combine creativity and fun, with an important educational message and purpose. Below is the Nivea video, we would highly recommend watching….



Additional information:

You can download the global experiment instructions here, buy UV beads here or for more information on the experiment, please visit the Royal Society of Chemistry website. Another educational resource and activity sheet is also available here.
For information on UV and Skin Cancer awareness, please visit the Yorkshire Cancer Research website.