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“Adhesives at the Beach: Characterization, Mimicry and Application of Marine Biological Materials"

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The oceans are home to a diverse collection of animals producing intriguing materials. Mussels, barnacles, and oysters are examples of the many organisms generating adhesive matrices for affixing themselves to the sea floor. Our laboratory is characterizing these biological materials, designing synthetic polymer mimics, and developing applications. Characterization efforts include experiments with live animals, extracted proteins, and peptide models. Synthetic mimics of bioadhesives begin with the chemistry learned from characterization studies and incorporate the findings into polymers. For example, we can mimic the cross-linking of DOPA-containing adhesive proteins by placing monomers with pendant catechols into various polymer backbones. Adhesion strengths of these new polymers rival those of cyanoacrylate “super glues.” Substantial underwater bonding is also now possible. Long-term efforts include development of sustainably sourced materials to solve several environmental problems as well as creating a new generation of biomedical adhesives.

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