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AN UNDERSTANDING OF MUSSEL ADHESION TO INFLUENCE MATERIALS DEVELOPMENT
The development of new materials has been inspired by lessons learned from natural systems. In the area of underwater adhesion and adhesives, inspiration has come from the complex protein adhesives generated by marine organism such as barnacle and mussels. These protein systems have a high incorporation of a unique amino acid, dihydroxyphenylalanine, and provides the unique adhesive qualities synthetic systems strive to emulate.
By understanding how marine mussels stick to a variety of surfaces, new strategies can be explored for preventing the adhesion of biological organisms to various substrates. A continuous concern for marine vessels is the detrimental impact caused by biofouling on the hull of the ship. Fuel consumption can increase as the vessel’s drag increasing fuel consumption and non-native species can be introduced into new environments. Taking inspiration from catechol curing, new oxidative surfaces were investigated as potential antifouling coatings.
Further insight into the marine mussels ability to apply and cure its adhesive on a variety of substrate has also inspired various synthetic polymers. The catechol moiety can be incorporated into a polymer backbone to give a new solvent based adhesive. Further investigation of the poly(styrene-co-(3,4-dihydroxystyrene)) adhesive system was done to formulate an underwater adhesive for unique use cases. A terpolymer was also explored as an ideal adhesive taking inspiration from the mussels by incorporating ﬂexible, stiﬀ, and sticky components to give a tunable adhesive.
Having a strong bonding synthetic adhesive that can be used on a laboratory scale is good for academic investigation, but not of use outside the lab if it cannot easily be produced on a commercial scale. With the goal of large scale synthesis, a new polymerization method was introduced addressing some of the issues currently preventing commercial scale production.