Studies have shown that small amounts of oxybenzone, a common, UV-blocking component of sunscreen, can stunt growth of coral reefs. There are currently efforts underway to ban the chemical in Hawaii.
Felix Roman, a chemistry professor at the University of Puerto Rico, along with graduate student Victor Fernandez, have proposed creating microbeads from a biodegradable mix of algae; chitosan, a byproduct of shrimp and lobster; and iron nanoparticles. The algae and chitosan would be modified to target and retain oxybenzone specifically, while the iron would allow the particles to be collected with magnets.
“After a long day of people going to the beach, in the area of the coral reefs that you want to protect, you could have these beads dumped or dragged around with a boat,” Roman says.