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Sticking power: new adhesive earns patent, could find place in space
Date:3/23/2011

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- A recently patented adhesive made by Kansas State University researchers could become a staple in every astronaut's toolbox.

The patent, "pH dependent adhesive peptides," was issued to the Kansas State University Research Foundation, a nonprofit corporation responsible for managing technology transfer activities of K-State. The patent covers an adhesive made from peptides -- a compound containing two or more amino acids that link together -- that increases in strength as moisture is removed.

It was created by John Tomich, professor of biochemistry, and Xiuzhi "Susan" Sun, professor of grain science and industry. Assisting in the research was Takeo Iwamoto, an adjunct professor in biochemistry, and Xinchun Shen, a former postdoctoral researcher.

"The adhesive we ended up developing was one that formed nanoscale fibrils that become entangled, sort of like Velcro. It has all these little hooks that come together," Tomich said. "It's a mechanical type of adhesion, though, not a chemical type like most commercial adhesives."

Because of its unusual properties, applications will most likely be outside the commercial sector, Tomich said.

For example, unlike most adhesives that become brittle as moisture levels decrease, the K-State adhesive's bond only becomes stronger. Because of this, it could be useful in low-moisture environments like outer space, where astronauts could use it to reattach tiles to a space shuttle.

Conversely, its deterioration from water could also serve a purpose.

"It could be used as a timing device or as a moisture detection device," Tomich said. "There could be a circuit or something that when the moisture got to a certain level, the adhesive would fail and break the circuit, sounding an alarm."

The project began nearly a decade ago as Sun and a postdoctal researcher were studying the adhesive properties of soybean proteins. Needing an instrument to synth
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Contact: John Tomich
jtomich@k-state.edu
785-532-5956
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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