Scientists develop glue that works under water and can help preserve marine environments

Sticky sea-tuation: scientists develop underwater glue that works as static electricity to stick objects together in seconds

  • Earlier efforts to make underwater adhesives were inspired by the barnacles of nature
  • However, it has been found that these adhesives oxidize quickly and lose their stickiness
  • Japanese researchers instead made an adhesive that works by electrostatic attraction
  • Positively charged molecules in the glue are attracted to negative surfaces
  • These include objects made from fabrics such as glass, metal and even stones
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A glue that works under water and can stick objects together in just a few seconds has been developed by a team of Japanese researchers.

The water glue attaches to materials such as glass, metals and rocks – and works by harnessing the electrical power between molecules to stick to surfaces.

This so-called & # 39; electrostatic attraction & # 39; works in the same way as a party balloon can be stuck to the ceiling by rubbing the surface to create an electrical charge.

This method of sticking things together takes longer than previous & # 39; waterproof & # 39; adhesives, which imitate the natural adhesives found in marine animals such as barnacles.

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Unfortunately, such naturally inspired adhesives have been found to oxidize rapidly, causing them to lose their adhesion.

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A hydrogel-based glue - in the photo - that works under water and can stick everything together in just a few seconds, has been developed by a team of Japanese researchers

A hydrogel-based glue – in the photo – that works under water and can stick everything together in just a few seconds, has been developed by a team of Japanese researchers

HOW DOES THE GLUE WORK?

Unlike super glue, which hardens on contact with water, the hydrogel glue uses electrical forces under water.

Positively charged portions of the long molecules in the gel are attracted to negatively charged surfaces.

These are, for example, materials on fabrics such as glass, metal and even stones.

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Researchers could use the glue to lift an 18 ounce (500 g) glass block.

However, the glue is not permanent, whereby the adhesion is completely reversible.

"We discovered that the hydrogel could be easily manufactured using a highly scalable, cost-effective method," said paper author and polymer scientist Jian Ping Gong of Japan's Hokkaido University in Japan.

& # 39; It can act as a super glue in highly ionic environments such as seawater, thus overcoming problems with currently available marine adhesives. & # 39;

In contrast to previous underwater adhesives, the researchers developed a so-called hydrogel – a material made of water-loving chains of long polymer molecules – that use the electrical power between molecules to attach to negatively charged surfaces.

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These surfaces can be those of glass, rocks and metals.

Each polymer chain is made up of two types of smaller molecules – one with a positively charged, & # 39; cationic & # 39; residue and the other a so-called & # 39; aromatic & # 39; ring.

Together they form a & # 39; adjacent & # 39; binding.

& # 39; Aromatic amino acid sequences in proteins are known to enable electrostatic interactions in salt water, & # 39; said Professor Gong.

It was rather a challenge to make such sequences in man-made polymers, but the team found a cost-effective way to achieve this.

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In addition, the team has demonstrated that – although it is the positively charged residue that adheres the glue to negatively charged surfaces – the gel was not nearly as tight without the adjacent aromatic molecules.

The team tested the glue on a 500 gram glass block, which showed that after five seconds of contact between the block and the gel, they could lift the object out of the water

The team tested the glue on a 500 gram glass block, which showed that after five seconds of contact between the block and the gel, they could lift the object out of the water

The team tested the glue on a 500 gram glass block, which showed that after five seconds of contact between the block and the gel, they could lift the object out of the water

The researchers developed a so-called hydrogel - a material made from water-loving chains of long polymer molecules - that uses the electrical power between molecules to attach to negatively charged surfaces. Each polymer chain is made up of two types of smaller molecules - one with a positively charged, & # 39; cationic & # 39; residue and the other a so-called & # 39; aromatic & # 39; ring

The researchers developed a so-called hydrogel - a material made from water-loving chains of long polymer molecules - that uses the electrical power between molecules to attach to negatively charged surfaces. Each polymer chain is made up of two types of smaller molecules - one with a positively charged, & # 39; cationic & # 39; residue and the other a so-called & # 39; aromatic & # 39; ring

The researchers developed a so-called hydrogel – a material made from water-loving chains of long polymer molecules – that uses the electrical power between molecules to attach to negatively charged surfaces. Each polymer chain is made up of two types of smaller molecules – one with a positively charged, & # 39; cationic & # 39; residue and the other a so-called & # 39; aromatic & # 39; ring

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The team tested the glue on a glass block of 500 grams, which showed that after five seconds of contact between the block and the hydrogel, they could lift the object out of the water.

In fact, the strength of the glue can go up to about 60 pounds of pascal – which is close to the cabin pressure found in commercial aircraft.

However, the glue is not permanent, whereby the adhesion is completely reversible.

& # 39; Our hydrogel must have promising applications as adhesives for submarine leaks, marine sand binders for the preservation of marine environments and for concrete in the sea, & # 39; Professor Gong added.

The team also hopes that their current discovery will lead to the production of similar adhesives that work in other extreme environments.

The global market for underwater adhesives is expected to reach £ 20 billion ($ 25.7 billion) by 2020 – an increase of five percent since 2015.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Nature communication.

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