A few days ago, we talked about how researchers had been inspired by the color changing ability of squids and octopuses, to develop high-definition LCD display. Well, this time around the tech inspiration comes from the waterproof abilities of the shellfish. MIT engineers have been able to successfully create a special type of waterproof adhesive that is based on the protein of such marine-based creatures, like mussels.
For their efficacious creation, the scientists utilized engineered bacteria that could produce a hybrid material (of dense, fibrous meshes) that comprises of both mussel protein and bacteria protein (derived from bio-film layers). This combination has proved to be ‘potent’ in every sense of the word, with the man-made adhesive boasting of even greater sticking capacity than the natural protein secreted by shellfishes. In other words, the true innovation of the process entails how the organic ‘super material’ could be synthesized by using bacteria as the diminutive factory.
The researchers immediately put their invention to test, with a technique known as atomic force microscopy. The results were favorable to say the least, with the adhesive exhibiting its strong binding capacity particularly in cases of three materials – silica, gold, and polystyrene. In fact, the scientists are already claiming this to be the strongest protein-based underwater adhesive ever created by mankind!
However, developing the composite adhesive material is just one piece of the puzzle. But the engineers have to go beyond the scope of tiny ‘bacteria-factories’ to commercially manufacture such adhesive types in large scale. And interestingly – that is not even the end goal of the MIT scientists. To that end, the group is also looking forth to develop and synthesize more advanced bacteria-derived ‘living glues’ that can diagnose damaged surfaces and consequently repair it by secreting special organic-based adhesives!
This is what Timothy Lu, senior researcher of the project, had to say about the endeavor –
The ultimate goal for us is to set up a platform where we can start building materials that combine multiple different functional domains together and to see if that gives us better materials performance.
The project was reported on the 21st September issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.