Let's Talk Bioadhesives

Posted on 8/10/2017 3:34:20 PM By Deb Bhattacharjee

Bioadhesives are naturally occurring polymeric materials with adhesive properties.  It is often used to describe a glue formed synthetically from biological intermediates which could consist of a variety of substances including proteins such as gelatin, cellulose, and starch (corn, rice, potato, etc.).  Many of these general purpose waterborne adhesives have been known for a long time and have overall inferior adhesive properties.  Examples include furniture, packaging/labeling and textile applications.

The term “Bioadhesives” could also mean synthetic and biological macromolecules and hydrocolloids designed to adhere to biological tissue. They are used for several purposes:

  • Protection of tissues, e.g. wound healing
  • Prevention of fluid (blood) escape
  • As a replacement for surgical sutures (e.g. sutureless surgery) and
  • As a substitute for conventional drug delivery systems (for example, “Orabase” paste containing carboxymethylcellulose, gelain, etc. used to deliver penicillin for the treatment of mouth ulcers)

Bioadhesives gained commercial interest because they are often biocompatible, i.e. useful for biomedical applications involving skin or other body tissue. Some work in wet environment and under water, while others can stick to low surface energy substrates.

The North American bio-based adhesives market was $216 MM in 2015 (~6% of the total $3.6B), with a CAGR 3% during 2015-2019.  The growth in packaging & paper, construction, wood, personal care, and medical applications has been driving the increased consumption of bioadhesives. Europe is the largest region, both in terms of volume and value, followed by North America and Asia-Pacific. As expected, Asia Pacific would have the highest CAGR during the next 5-10 years.

There are significant R&D activities related to bioadhesives not only by academia and entrepreneur institutions but also by leading adhesives manufacturers and raw material suppliers, as evidenced by innumerable publications and patent applications.  While the driving forces in academia approaches have always been the exploration of new and novel approaches with biopolymers having adhesive properties, the industrial emphasis has been the maintaining or improving adhesive properties at competitive cost. The recent emphasis has been to impart biodegradability and hot melt properties to conventional bioadhesives.


  • 2015-2019 Water based adhesives in North America Market Report” by The Adhesive & Sealant Council, 2017
  • “Bioadhesives: A review”, S. Khanlari and M.A. Dube, Macromolecular Reaction Engineering, 14 Nov., 2013
  • "Mussels inspire new surgical glue possibilities". ScienceDaily article, Dec 2007.
  • Frog glue story on ABC TV science program Catalyst.
  • "Marine algae hold key to better biomedical adhesives", Biomaterials for healthcare: a decade of EU-funded research, p. 23
  • Press release “Henkel and DaniMer Scientific form alliance to deliver bio-based hot melt adhesives for packaging”, Jan. 15, 2013