Over a 150 years since it was first described by Darwin, scientists are finally uncovering the secrets behind the super strength of barnacle glue.
Still far better than anything we have been able to develop synthetically, barnacle glue – or cement – sticks to any surface, under any conditions.
But exactly how this superglue of superglues works has remained a mystery – until now.
An international team of scientists led by Newcastle University, UK, and funded by the US Office of Naval Research, have shown for the first time that barnacle larvae release an oily droplet to clear the water from surfaces before sticking down using a phosphoprotein adhesive.
Publishing their findings this week in the prestigious academic journal Nature Communications, author Dr Nick Aldred says the findings could pave the way for the development of novel synthetic bioadhesives for use in medical implants and micro-electronics. The research will also be important in the production of new anti-fouling coatings for ships.
“It’s over 150 years since Darwin first described the cement glands of barnacle larvae and little work has been done since then,” says Dr Aldred, a research associate in the School of Marine Science and Technology at Newcastle University, one of the world’s leading institutions in this field of research.
“We’ve known for a while there are two components to the bioadhesive but until now, it was thought they behaved a bit like some of the synthetic glues – mixing before hardening. But that still left the question, how does the glue contact the surface in the first place if it is already covered with water? This is one of the key hurdles to developing glues for underwater applications.
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