New protein-based adhesive sets wet

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

New protein-based adhesive sets wet

Related tags Mussel adhesive protein Materials science

The sticky material, with potential uses in the cosmetics industry, is a biomimetic developed at Indiana’s Purdue University from research on shellfish.

Scientists at the University created an adhesive platform technology that they hope will fill an industry niche: common adhesives do not set or hold well in moist and wet conditions. 

In the lab “we have been able to make materials that have very very strong bonding and can set underwater as well,” ​said Jonathan Wilker, professor of chemistry and materials engineering, in a video produced by the Purdue research office of technology commercialization.

Going green
The production and use of petroleum-based adhesives have environmental repercussions. The Purdue researchers are hoping their protein-based alternative will sidestep those concerns.

“Most adhesives we have…can be toxic, they can be releasing volatile organics into the environment, and most of them are sourced from petroleum and really we’d like to be getting our materials from renewable feed stocks,” ​said Wilkers. Sustainable sourcing is a possibility with this new technology.

Wilker and a team of scientists worked with shellfish in the lab to determine how the animals make adhesive material and what it is exactly. From there the team made a synthetic alternative.

“We take the characterization insights that we develop by working with the animals and we translate that into synthetics systems and then we make biomimetic adhesives based on what we learn from the animals,”​ he said in the video.  

Cosmetic scenarios                                                        
Wet setting adhesives have several potential applications in cosmetics from nail care products to eyelash glue. Several years back, Cosmetics Design reported​ on Kollodis BioSciences’ partnership with Lifeace cosmetics on just such a glue made from mussel adhesive protein. That company continues to offer a “sophisticated mimetic underwater adhesive by combining recombinant mussel adhesive protein with hyaluronic acid,” ​according to the Kollodis site.

It’s still early days for the Purdue adhesive. “It is going to have to be developed in different directions to have applications in different markets,” ​observed Wilker.

Scalability is crucial to the successful commercialisation of an ingredient. "A lot of the chemistry involved in the animals' adhesive is protein-based, but no one is going to be able to make a complicated protein for large-scale applications. So we are substituting simple polymers for the proteins while maintaining other aspects of the adhesive chemistry," ​said Wilker.

The adhesive system he and his team at Purdue have developed is scalable and can be readily adapted to diverse industry requirement.

Business deals
Boiling Point, an intellectual property broker, optioned the patented platform technology and is seeking industrial partners: “Our goal is to find existing companies or create new companies that have a variety of needs for this adhesive. We will negotiate with those companies to create licensing deals, taking the quickest path to market,” ​said Michael Pattison, president and CEO of Boiling Point said in a statement announcing the partnership with Purdue.

Related topics Formulation & Science

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