Shellfish Chemistry Inspires Biodegradable Polymer

By Chemical Processing Staff

Jan 23, 2017

Purdue researchers develop a new type of adhesive that combines the bonding chemistry of shellfish with a bio-based polymer. The adhesive has reportedly been shown to perform as well as commercially available products and degrades easily, representing a potential non-toxic alternative.

Mussels extend hair-like fibers that attach to surfaces using plaques of adhesive, according to Purdue. Proteins in the glue contain the amino acid DOPA, which harbors the chemistry needed to facilitate the “cross-linking” of protein molecules, providing strength and adhesion. Purdue researchers have reportedly combined this bonding chemistry of mussel proteins with a polymer called poly(lactic acid), or PLA, a bio-based polymer that can be derived from corn. The adhesive was created by harnessing the chemistry of compounds called catechols, contained in DOPA.

“We found the adhesive bonding to be appreciable and comparable to several petroleum-based commercial glues,” says Jonathan Wilker, a professor of chemistry and materials engineering at Purdue University.

Findings are detailed in a research paper published online January 4 in the journal Macromolecules. The paper was authored by Wilker and graduate students Courtney L. Jenkins and Heather M. Siebert in Purdue’s Department of Chemistry. Jenkins is now an assistant professor of chemistry at Ball State University.

“Results presented here show that a promising new adhesive system can be derived from a renewable resource, display high-strength bonding and degrade easily in a controlled fashion,” Wilker says. “Particularly unique was the ability to debond this adhesive under mild conditions.”

The research was funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, according to Purdue.

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