Taking inspirations from the shellfish that secretes natural adhesives, the engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed stronger waterproof glue that has the potential to paste almost anything ranging from repairing big ships to healing wounds and surgical incisions.
For the incredible creation, the MIT researchers engineered bacteria to develop a hybrid material that naturally integrates sticky mussel proteins and a bacterial protein that are found in biofilms that are slimy layers formed by the bacteria growing on a surface.
According to the researchers, these proteins form stronger underwater adhesives following combination than those secreted by mussels.
Talking about the invention, one of the researchers Timothy Lu said, “Our ultimate goal 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.”
Timothy Lu is an associate professor of biological engineering and electrical engineering and computer science (EECS).
Researchers said that the sticky material helping mussels to attach with underwater surfaces is made of proteins called mussel foot proteins.
According to the team, they planned to engineer bacteria in order to produce two different foot proteins along with bacterial proteins called curli fibres. The engineered bacteria led to the formation of proteins having curli fibres that formed bonding with either mussel foot protein 3 or mussel foot protein 5.
Curli fibres are fibrous proteins that can assemble themselves to form giant and more complex meshes.
Following purification of these proteins from the bacteria, the team then kept them incubate and form dense and fibrous meshes. The material hence produced has a regular but flexible structure that is able to strongly bind with both wet and dry surfaces.
For cross-checking the end result, the team tested the adhesives with the help of atomic force microscopy which is a technique that investigates a sample’s surface with a tiny tip.
Following probe, the researchers found that the adhesives strongly bound to tips formed of three different materials – gold, silica and polystyrene.
The adhesives accumulated from equal amounts of mussel foot protein 3 and 5 led to the formation of stronger adhesives in contrast to those with different ratio or just single protein out of two on their own.
The study’s findings were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
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