Sandcastle worms are known for building hive-like shelters by gluing grains of sand together, surviving the rough and tumble of the intertidal zone in their tough little tube reefs or sandcastles. Now UC Santa Barbara researchers are uncovering the secrets of this bio-adhesive, and expect to pioneer an underwater adhesive that can be used in biomedical and industrial applications that call for strong, resilient bonding in wet conditions.
The adhesive will not require dry curing or pressure and will be suitable for bonding a variety of substrates including metals, plastics, glass, and biological tissues. The porosity of the adhesive mimics cellular structures found in nature, making bonds less susceptible to cracking and facilitating bonding under wet conditions. The researchers hope to perfect an adhesive that will bond rapidly, even under adverse conditions, and that will not require the use of organic solvents.
They note that existing wet glues that perform as well as natural substances in terms of rapid bond formation and stickiness have yet to be developed, and believe that biomimicry of sandcastle worms and mussels will result in an adhesive that does not require complex application processes while satisfying the need for an easy-to-use, durable yet effective wet adhesive.