Mussels Inpire Biocompatible Adhesive with Amazing Properties
Researchers from Mainz have been inspired by mussel adhesive proteins to create a new adhesive that can be debonded on demand. Modern adhesives are very high-tech, but three items persist on the wish lists of adhesion scientists: reliable bonding under water, "self-healing" adhesives that would prevent catastrophic failure, and adhesives that can be debonded "on demand" with no residue. In nature there are astonishingly robust, strongly bonding, universal adhesives that meet the first two requirements. For example, mussels use them to stick to nearly all types of surfaces. Researchers working with Aránzazu del Campo at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz have taken inspiration from these mussel adhesives, producing four-armed, star-shaped polymers with nitrodopamine groups attached to their ends. These groups are related to the amino acid dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) and help the adhesive to cross-link under water and give it self-healing properties. The nitro groups (-NO2) also provide the material with another bonus: the molecules can be split by irradiation with UV light, so the adhesive can be debonded. This discovery lays the foundation for a class of adhesives that are waterproof, heal themselves, react with surfaces, degrade with light, and are biocompatible. The primary application for this new material may be in medicine.
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