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Monday, 28 September 2020
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Raw materials & technologies, Technologies

Different performance of biological adhesives produced by blue mussels

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

A new paper describes how the availability of environmental iron influences the performance of the biological adhesives produced by mussels.

The availability of environmental iron influences the performance of the biological adhesives produced by mussels. Image source: whitecreek - Pixabay (symbol image).
The availability of environmental iron influences the performance of the biological adhesives produced by mussels. Image source: whitecreek - Pixab...

Animals incorporate metals within the materials they manufacture, such as protective armor and teeth. Iron is an element used for adding strength and self-healing properties to load-bearing materials. Incorporation of iron is found beyond hard, brittle materials, even within the soft adhesive produced by marine mussels. Such findings suggest that the bioavailability of iron may have an influence on the properties of a biological material.

Weakest adhesive strengths in iron-deficient waters

Experiments for the study were conducted using live mussels in which seawater iron levels were deficient, normal, or in excess of typical concentrations. The weakest adhesive strengths were produced in iron-deficient waters. Increasing seawater iron brought about more robust bonding. Changes in strengths correlated with varied adhesive morphology, color, and microstructural features, likely a result of variations in the degree of iron-induced protein cross-linking.

According to the researchers, the study provides the first whole animal scale data on how the manipulation of bioavailable iron influences the performance of a biological material. Changing ocean chemistries will alter the iron bioavailability when a decrease in pH shifts elemental speciation from particulate to dissolved, hindering the ability of filtering organisms to capture nutrients.

These results show future implications of changing ocean chemistry as well as of the resulting abilities of marine organisms to construct essential materials.

The study has been published in Environmental Science & Technology, 2020, 54, 16.

Image source: Pixabay.

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