Manufacturing News

Searching for new adhesives

Research scientists are now looking to nature to reveal adhesion secrets in order to develop safer and more environmentally friendly bonding products.

A team of specialists at CSIRO are scouring the ocean for naturally occurring adhesives found in marine sources such as barnacles, mussels and sponges in order to develop ‘novel’ adhesives for commercial use.

By developing an understanding of the molecules and mechanisms of marine derived adhesives, the scientists hope to identify marine adhesives with novel properties which can then be used for bonding applications.

Dr Joanna Parr, novel ocean-based industries leader with CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship, says the aim is to make and commercialise a synthetic version of these naturally occurring adhesives, while also exploring other commercial applications for the materials.

“The new adhesive systems could potentially be used directly or the knowledge used to develop synthetic, bio-inspired products,” Dr Parr said.

According to Dr Parr, using marine derived adhesives can offer a range of significant safety and environmental benefits.

“Part of the challenge of using traditional adhesives is using them in aqueous and environmentally adverse conditions,” she told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“Our adhesives would target the unmet needs in various market sectors for a non toxic adhesive with good bond-strength that preferably cures rapidly and is durable in a wet or moist environment,” she said.

Novel adhesives are found throughout microscopic marine life, enabling micro organisms to adhere to and colonise a surface, to protect the cells, for biochemical interactions and as a sponge to trap nutrients.

Some better known, yet still poorly understood examples, are those used by barnacles, mussels and related species.

Others include those associated with sponges, corals, bryozoans, sea stars and other animals.

Dr Parr says the adhesives derived from microbial sources will have a wide range of potential applications including the textile industry, paints and metal recovery, as well as food applications in gelling, thickening and stabilising and in medical applications.

“Even though the product itself might be a few years away of being used in a commercial capacity, the technology opens up many exciting possibilities that haven’t been investigated before and we welcome enquiries from potential partners interested in trialling these products,” she said.

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