It comes as no surprise, but we have a lot to learn from nature, especially when it comes to making powerful, water-proof adhesives — ever tried to chip a mussel off a seawall or a barnacle off the bottom of a boat? Maybe not, but it is said to be quite difficult.
Engineers at Tufts University have taken note, and using our stubbornly adherent crustacean friends as inspiration, have created a new type of glue that outperforms even the strongest dry adhesives. The Silklab “glue crew”, as they call themselves, used a fibrous silk protein harvested from silkworms, and with it were able to replicate key elements of barnacle and mussel glue, including protein filaments, chemical crosslinking, and iron bonding.
“The composite we created works not only better underwater than most adhesives available today, it achieves that strength with much smaller quantities of material,” said Fiorenzo Omenetto, professor of engineering at Tufts School of Engineering and director of the Tufts Silklab where the material was created.
“And because the material is made from extracted biological sources, and the chemistries are benign — drawn from nature and largely avoiding synthetic steps or the use of volatile solvents — it could have advantages in manufacturing as well.”
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