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  Technology   In Other news  13 Mar 2017  New bio-inspired super strong glue works under water

New bio-inspired super strong glue works under water

PTI
Published : Mar 13, 2017, 8:34 am IST
Updated : Mar 13, 2017, 8:35 am IST

The bio-based glue performed better than 10 commercial adhesives when used to bond polished aluminium.

(Representational image)
 (Representational image)

Scientists, inspired by substances shellfish create to stick to surfaces, have developed a super strong adhesive that works under water. The bio-based glue performed better than 10 commercial adhesives when used to bond polished aluminium. When compared with the five strongest commercial glues included in the study, the new adhesive performed better when bonding wood, Teflon and polished aluminium.

It was the only adhesive of those tested that worked with wood and far out-performed the other adhesives when used to join Teflon. "Our current adhesives are terrible at wet bonding, yet marine biology solved this problem eons ago," said Jonathan

Wilker, a professor at Purdue University in the US. "Mussels, barnacles, and oysters attach to rocks with apparent ease. In order to develop new materials able to bind within harsh environments, we made a biomimetic polymer that is modelled after the adhesive proteins of mussels," said Wilker.

Mussels extend hair-like fibres that attach to surfaces using plaques of adhesive. Proteins in the glue contain the amino acid DOPA, which harbours the chemistry needed to provide strength and adhesion. Researchers inserted this chemistry of mussel proteins into a biomimetic polymer called poly(catechol-styrene), creating an adhesive by harnessing the chemistry of compounds called catechols, which are contained in DOPA. "We are focusing on catechols given that the animals use this type of chemistry so successfully," Wilker said. "Poly(catechol-styrene) is looking to be, possibly, one of the strongest underwater adhesives found to date," he said.

While most adhesives interact with water instead of sticking to surfaces, the catechol groups may have a special talent for "drilling down" through surface waters in order to bind onto surfaces, he said. "These findings are helping to reveal which aspects of mussel adhesion are most important when managing attachment within their wet and salty environment," Wilker said. "All that is needed for high strength bonding underwater appears to be a catechol-containing polymer," he added. The new adhesive also proved to be about 17 times stronger than the natural adhesive produced by mussels. "In biomimetics, where you try to make synthetic versions of natural materials and compounds, you almost never can achieve performance as good as the natural system," Wilker said.

One explanation might be that the animals have evolved to produce adhesives that are only as strong as they need to be for their specific biological requirements. The natural glues might be designed to give way when the animals are hunted by predators, breaking off when pulled from a surface instead of causing injury to internal tissues.

Tags: glue, scientists, mussel adhesion