Reversible superglues inspired by snail epiphragm
Adhesives are ubiquitous in daily life and industrial applications. They usually fall into one of two classes: strong but irreversible (e.g., superglues) or reversible/reusable but weak (e.g., pressure-sensitive adhesives and biological and biomimetic surfaces).
Achieving both superstrong adhesion and reversibility has been challenging. This task is particularly difficult for hydrogels that, because their major constituent is liquid water, typically do not adhere strongly to any material.
Superglue-like adhesion strength
Scientists have now presented a snail epiphragm-inspired adhesion mechanism where a polymer gel system demonstrates superglue-like adhesion strength (up to 892 N⋅cm−2) that is also reversible. It is applicable to both flat and rough target surfaces. In its hydrated state, the softened gel conformally adapts to the target surface by low-energy deformation, which is locked upon drying as the elastic modulus is raised from hundreds of kilopascals to ∼2.3 GPa, analogous to the action of the epiphragm of snails.
The researchers have also shown that in this system adhesion strength is based on the material’s intrinsic, especially near-surface, properties and not on any near-surface structure, providing reversibility and ease of scaling up for practical applications.
The study has been published on the PNAS website.
Image source: Pixabay.