Boffins at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research have created a new type of glue that can adhere equally well in dry or wet conditions.
The glue combines the adhesive strength of a gecko's feet with the glue that mussels produce to stick to rocks in breaking waves. The product will be used primarily in medical situations to bind wounds during surgery.
"Our work represents a proof of principle that it can be done," said Dr Phillip Messersmith, a scientist at Northwestern University in Evanston, and the senior author of 'Cellular and molecular mechanisms of tissue and damage repair'.
"A great deal of research must still be done to refine the fabrication process and greatly reduce its cost. There is no reason to believe that these improvements cannot be achieved, but it is going to take time."
The secret to the glue lies in the animal world. A gecko's feet are covered in hairs which split at the ends and are covered in tiny suckers. If all half million hairs are in contact with a surface, around a billion suction devices also make contact.
A simulation of this system forms the base of the glue, which is topped with a substance similar to that extruded by mussels to withstand tons of wave pressure.
Together the bond will hold no matter what the conditions of the surface to which it is applied.
"Band-aids already adhere well, except if you go swimming, take a shower, or somehow expose it to a lot of water," explained Dr Messersmith.
"The most important thing with this adhesive is the added value of resisting immersion in water. It may be possible to develop patches in the future that can be applied on the inside of the cheek to cover damaged tissue."
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