In their quest to develop underwater glue, the scientists have designed a new synthetic material, which can fuse two surfaces underwater.
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara designed a synthetic material, which combines the key functionalities of interfacial mussel foot proteins, and creating a single, low molecular weight, one component adhesive.
Being inspired by the mussels’ ability to cling to surfaces, despite of the constant pounding of wind and waves; the scientists have studied the combination of the proteins mussels secrete in the form of byssus threads, which extend from their feet and anchor them to pilings, rocks or any other surface in their vicinity.
While wet adhesion is an adaptation, which is widespread among the inhabitants of the intertidal zone; the mussels in particular lend themselves to the kind of fundamental research, which is necessary to understand how it is possible to stick to something submerged or wet.
Kollbe Ahn, research faculty member of the University said;
‘We have successfully mimicked the biological adhesive delivery mechanism in water with an unprecedented level of underwater adhesion’
An adhesive primer which can overcome the barrier of contaminant biofilm layers and water to adhere to virtually any metal oxide or mineral surface has a variety of applications; right from basic repair of materials exposed to salty water, to dental and biomedical uses, as well as nanofabrication.
‘More importantly, this less than 2 nanometre thin layer can be used not only at the nano length scale; but also in the micro length scale to boost the performance of current bulk adhesives’, Ahn further added.
The researchers have developed an underwater glue from a simple material, which demonstrates a record underwater adhesion, up to 10 times the effectiveness demonstrated previously in other such materials. Key to this technology is the synthesis of a material, which combines the key functional molecular groups of several residues that are found in the biological adhesion proteins.
In mussel feet, the amino acid L-Dopa contains hydrogen bonding chemical groups known as catechols. These are found in especially high quantities at interface between the plaques at the ends of the byssus threads the mussels secrete, and the often submerged and wet surfaces to which they adhere.
By mimicking the characteristics of mussel foot proteins, which are particularly rich in this amino acid; the scientists have designed a molecule that can prime and fuse two surfaces underwater.
The findings of this underwater glue were published in the Nature Communications journal.
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