Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Nature Inspired Adhesive Works Underwater

A group of scientists at Wageningen University & Research, in the Netherlands, have developed an injectable adhesive that can bond to various surfaces underwater. The glue is inspired by mussels and sandcastle worms, which have the ability to release a fluid phase underwater. This substance hardens successfully underwater, enabling them to attach to various underwater surfaces. The injectable adhesive is composed of oppositely charged protein domains stored in a fluid and water-immiscible phase.  The team hopes their research will help further develop adhesives that can successfully bond to surfaces within the body such as soft tissues and wounds. The team's research was recently published in Advanced Materials.

Underwater adhesion test on the bioinspired glue.
Underwater adhesion test on the bioinspired glue.
Credit: Wageningen University & Research


From the Wageningen University & Research article: "The adhesive is prepared by mixing aqueous solutions of oppositely charged polymers modified with thermosensitive units. The material, which is liquid-like at room temperature, turns immediately into a solid when the temperature is raised above 32 °C, when the thermoresponsive chains get together and collapse, making the adhesive much tougher.

When tested underwater, the material shows impressive adhesive properties, sticking strongly to many different surfaces like glass, teflon or charged surfaces. The developed glue is therefore an ideal candidate for gluing tissues inside the human body, where the temperature of the environment would trigger an immediate setting without the insertion of any additional chemical species. In addition to that, the material is easy to inject, given its low viscosity at room temperature, and does not disperse in the environment since it is water-immiscible.

The researchers are now working on the optimization of the material properties in order to obtain a even better performance which would allow them to start testing the adhesive properties on real biological tissues."


Read more about the nature inspired adhesive that works underwater at Wageningen University & Research.