The global adhesives market is one of the fastest-growing segments of commercial chemistry. Valued at over $50 billion and expected to grow to over $63 billion by 2021, the market is changing rapidly. Chemists are racing to develop the next generation of safer, smarter, more sustainable adhesives for use in industries like automotive and medical.
These three chemical advancements could be the mark of what’s next in the non-toxic adhesive space.
Silicone-based Skin Adhesives Specialized adhesive technology is growing parallel with the overall “wearable” device market. In the medical field, functioning adhesives are often all that stands in the way of doctor/patient adoption of existing medical devices. As the general population ages, scientists are developing new chemical solutions for skin-stuck wearables as traditional adhesives have proven painful to remove and inefficient for the weight and movement specifics of on-skin devices. In wearable medicine, comfort promotes compliance. Silicone is seen as the answer to soft-skin adhesive technology, providing a natural feel with varying levels of tack and flexibility. Medical grade silicone – typically made of silicon and oxygen - offers the added benefits of water and oxygen permeability as well as an overall cost-effectiveness. The newest generation of silicone medical adhesives are exceptionally non-cytotoxic and offer low interfacial bonding for unparalleled comfort.
Waterproof “Bio-Glue” Inspired by shellfish, chemists have recently stumbled on one of the most exciting adhesive breakthroughs ever. To solve the problem of “wet bonding,” scientists modeled a new generation of biomimetic polymer to act like the adhesive proteins in oysters and mussels. Using hair-like fibers, shellfish extend plaques of adhesive containing amino acid DOPA onto a surface, providing strength and adhesion. Chemists harnessed the power of these catechols (also found in DOPA) to create something they’re calling “poly(catechol-styrene)”. The new adhesive has proven to be over 17 times as strong as what bivalves themselves use and it’s totally biodegradable.
Light-Powered Lizard Adhesives The newest addition to the dry-adhesive space was inspired by none other than geckos. It’s strong and nimble, and it’s also photo-powered. Consisting of a layer of liquid crystal elastomers nestled between two layers of polydimethylsiloxane, the adhesive can “release” its grip with a flash of UV light. (The lights cause the molecules to change size, grabbing or releasing the adhered material.) The shape of the material’s microstructures mimics the adhesive pads of gecko feet, covered in tiny mushroom-shaped suckers. This new dry-adhesive shows a lot of promise in industries where fast-release suction is critical, such as robotics.
Adhesives are fascinating and they’re evolving all the time. Chemistry plays a major role in the advancement and proliferation of adhesive technology in myriad industries; Noah Technologies is watching.