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News Release 06-060

Waterproof Superglue May Be Strongest in Nature

Bacterial adhesive is 2-3 times stronger than common commercial glues

Aquatic bacteria attach to a surface, and each other, by their glue-secreting holdfasts.

Aquatic bacteria attach to a surface, and each other, by their glue-secreting holdfasts.


April 11, 2006

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The glue one species of water-loving bacteria uses to grip its surroundings may be the strongest natural adhesive known to science. If engineers can find a way to mass-produce the material, it could have uses in medicine, marine technology and a range of other applications.

Researchers at Indiana University in Bloomington and Brown University in Providence, R.I., studied how much force they needed to tug the tiny, stalked Caulobacter crescentus off a glass plate. As the researchers reported in the Apr. 11, 2006, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the bacteria grip with a force of 70 newtons per square millimeter--roughly 5 tons per square inch--or equivalent to the downward force exerted by three cars balancing on a spot the size of a quarter. While the researchers do not yet know if the substance is the strongest glue on Earth, it is stronger than cyanoacrylate superglues found on store shelves and may be rivaled only by a few synthetics.

Several NSF programs have supported the research. Funding for this study came from the Division of Materials Research in the Mathematics and Physical Sciences Directorate.

Additional information is available in the Indiana University press release linked below.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Joshua A. Chamot, NSF, (703) 292-7730, email: jchamot@nsf.gov
Wendy Lawton, Brown University, (401) 863-1862, email: Wendy_Lawton@brown.edu
David Bricker, Indiana University, (812) 856-9035, email: brickerd@indiana.edu

Program Contacts
Maija M. Kukla, NSF, (703) 292-4940, email: mkukla@nsf.gov
Patrick P. Dennis, NSF, (703) 292-7145, email: pdennis@nsf.gov
Charles Bouldin, NSF, (703) 292-4920, email: cbouldin@nsf.gov
Sally E. O'Connor, NSF, (703) 292-8470, email: soconnor@nsf.gov
Wendy Fuller-Mora, NSF, (703) 292-4931, email: wfullerm@nsf.gov

Co-Investigators
Ben Freund, Brown University, (401) 863-1476, email: freund@brown.edu
Jay X. Tang, Brown University, (401) 863 2292, email: Jay_Tang@Brown.edu
Yves Brun, Indiana University, (812) 855-8860, email: ybrun@indiana.edu

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2020 budget of $8.3 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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