Researchers Create New ‘Biomimetic’ Glue

Sunday, March 19, 2017 - 18:33

Researchers at Purdue University have created an adhesive that works under water and is modeled after the material created by shellfish to stick to surfaces.

According to Purdue University news room, in order to develop new materials able to bind within harsh environments, researchers made a biomimetic polymer that is modeled after the adhesive proteins of mussels.

Based on the new findings, the bio-based glue performed better than 10 commercial adhesives when used to bond polished aluminum. When compared with the five strongest commercial glues included in the study, the new adhesive performed better when bonding wood, Teflon and polished aluminum. It was the only adhesive of those tested that worked with wood and far out-performed the other adhesives when used to join Teflon.

Mussels extend hair-like fibers that attach to surfaces using plaques of adhesive. Proteins in the glue contain the amino acid DOPA, which harbors the chemistry needed to provide strength and adhesion. Purdue researchers have now 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.

Surprisingly, the new adhesive also proved to be about 17 times stronger than the natural adhesive produced by mussels. 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.

The research paper was authored by former doctoral students Michael A. North and Chelsey A. Del Grosso, who have graduated, and Jonathan Wilker, a professor of chemistry and materials engineering at Purdue University. Findings are detailed in a research paper published online in February and in the March 1 print issue of the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. Future research will include work to test the adhesive under real-world conditions.

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