UBC Faculty Research and Publications

UV Photolysis Study of Para-Aminobenzoic Acid Using Parahydrogen Matrix Isolated Spectroscopy McKinnon, Alexandra; Moore, Brendan; Djuricanin, Pavle; Momose, Takamasa


Many sunscreen chemical agents are designed to absorb UVB radiation (and in some cases UVA) to protect the skin from sunlight, but UV absorption is often accompanied by photodissociation of the chemical agent, which may reduce its UV absorption capacity. Therefore, it is important to understand the photochemical processes of sunscreen agents. In this study, the photolysis of para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), one of the original sunscreen chemical agents, at three different UV ranges (UVA: 355 nm, UVB: >280 nm, and UVC: 266 nm and 213 nm) was investigated using parahydrogen (pH2) matrix isolation Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy. PABA was found to be stable under UVA (355 nm) irradiation, while it dissociated into 4-aminylbenzoic acid (the PABA radical) through the loss of an amino hydrogen atom under UVB (>280 nm) and UVC (266 nm and 213 nm) irradiation. The radical production supports a proposed mechanism of carcinogenic PABA-thymine adduct formation. The infrared spectrum of the PABA radical was analyzed by referring to quantum chemical calculations, and two conformers were found in solid pH2. The PABA radicals were stable in solid pH2 for hours after irradiation. The trans-hydrocarboxyl (HOCO) radical was also observed as a minor secondary photoproduct of PABA following 213 nm irradiation. This work shows that pH2 matrix isolation spectroscopy is effective for photochemical studies of sunscreen agents.

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