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Researchers Seek to Replicate Wet Adhesion Properties Found in Nature

Researchers at New York University (NYU) Tandon School of Engineering (Brooklyn, New York, USA) have launched a study into the proteins of certain animals, such as mussels and tree frogs, in order to mimic their “wet adhesion” abilities in commercial sealants, coatings, glues, and medical adhesives. The project recently received a three-year, $400,000 grant from the Army Research Office (Adelphi, Maryland, USA), an element of U.S. Army Combat Capability Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory.

The research team led by Jin Kim Montclare, a NYU Tandon professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, are bioengineering hydrogels that copy key characteristics of wet adhesion proteins found in nature. “We’re employing strategies to control both the nano-scale conformational changes within the protein material and the micro-scaled patterns,” Montclare says. “The resulting set of proposed protein-engineered materials will bear insight into how we can impact the overall physicochemical properties while also developing novel biologically inspired adhesives.” She adds that this research could have a wide range of applications, including the manufacture of “reconfigurable and self-healing materials, living-anti-corrosion paints, and robust human-machine interfaces,” among others.

Montclare’s team is receiving assistance from Dr. Richard Fu of the Army Research Laboratory. Fu is looking for ways to transfer protein-based adhesives to surfaces using specially designed photomasks that etch the design of the device being manufactured.

“Dr. Montclare aims to create artificial biological adhesives that controllably interface with non-living inorganic materials. This kind of responsive biological adhesive is particularly exciting, as it could be used for protective coatings that could extend the life of military vehicles or devices by eliminating contaminants that degrade paints or coatings,” says Dr. Stephanie McElhinny, manager of the Biochemistry Program at the Army Research Office.

Source: NYU Tandon School of Engineering, www.nyu.engineering.