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Superglue from the sea
Date:11/24/2008

roteins one acidic or negatively charged, the other basic or positively charged that are natural polymers, or compounds with a repeating, chain-like structure. The glue also contains positively charged ions of calcium and magnesium.

In the natural worm glue, each protein polymer's "backbone" is made of polyamide, which has "side chains" of other chemicals attached to the backbone.

Stewart didn't use polyamide in the synthetic glue because it is impractical to synthesize. Instead, for the "backbone" of polymers in the synthetic glue, he used water-soluble polyacrylates, synthetic polymers that are related to commercial superglues and are used in floor wax, nail polish, pressure-sensitive adhesives and Plexiglas.

The "side chains" attached to the synthetic glue's polymer backbones copied the natural worm glue's side chains chemically and in other ways, Stewart says. Some side chains are dopa, which makes the glue function as glue.

"We made polymers with side chains that mimicked the positive and negative charges in the worm glue," Stewart says.

When the polymers are mixed, they form an unusual substance known as a "coacervate," which condenses out of the polymer solution and sinks to the bottom of a test tube as a dense solution that is the foundation of the synthetic glue.

The two polymers in the coacervate "cross link" their side chains attach to each other forming chemical bonds that make synthetic worm glue harden.

Because the solution-within-a-solution doesn't disperse, it can be sucked up with a syringe. "In some cases we may be able to repair bones with a [glue-filled] syringe rather than screws and power tools," says Stewart.

To test the strength of the synthetic glue, Stewart cut cow leg bones from grocery stores in cubes measuring 0.4 inches on a side, sanded the pieces, got them wet and bonded pieces together either with synthetic worm glue or with Loctite 40
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Contact: Lee Siegel
leesiegel@ucomm.utah.edu
801-581-8993
University of Utah
Source:Eurekalert  

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