Wet adhesion is a true engineering challenge. Marine animals such as mussels, oysters and barnacles are naturally equipped with the means to adhere to rock, buoys and other underwater structures and remain in place no matter how strong the waves and currents. Synthetic wet adhesive materials, on the other hand, are a different story.
Taking their cue from Mother Nature and the chemical composition of mussel foot proteins, an interdisciplinary research group at UC Santa Barbara decided to improve a small molecule called the siderophore cyclic trichrysobactin (CTC) that they had previously discovered. They modified the molecule and then tested its adhesive strength in aqueous environments. The result: a compound that rivals the staying power of mussel glue. Their findings appear today in the journal Science.
Part of the interdisciplinary effort were Alison Butler's Lab in Chemistry, Jacob Israelachvili’s Interfacial Sciences Lab in Chemical Engineering, and J. Herbert Waite, a professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, whose own work focuses on wet adhesion.
Co-lead author Greg Maier, a graduate student in the Butler Lab, created six different compounds with varying amounts of lysine and catechol. The Israelachvili lab tested each compound for its surface and adhesion characteristics. Co-lead author Michael Rapp used a surface force apparatus developed in the lab to measure the interactions between mica surfaces in a saline solution.
Pictured, from left to right: Jacob Israelachvili, Michael Rapp, Greg Maier, Herb Waite, and Alison Buter.
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