02 September 2015

Glue for submariners and surgeons

An adhesive that can harden in water has been invented

Scientists from Singapore (Nanyang Technological University) have invented an adhesive that hardens when voltage is applied to it, which allows it to be used in wet and humid conditions. An article about this study was recently published in Nature Communications (Ping et al., Adhesive curing through low-voltage activation).

The new glue with the name "Voltaglue" has many possible practical applications, ranging from underwater repair of ships and pipes to a universal tool for surgery.

Associate Professor Terry Steele said (in a press release by Scientists from NTU Singapore find electrifying solution to sticky problem - VM) that the development of an adhesive that can work in conditions of high humidity, for example, in the human body or water, took about a year."Most adhesives on the market don't work in high humidity conditions, just like sticky tape won't work if the surface is wet, as the glue will stick to water instead of the surface," he explained.

Adhesives such as superglue harden upon contact with moisture in the air. Others, such as epoxy, which are often used in electronic mobile devices, are cured at high temperatures of about 150 °With or by mixing together two different chemicals. These methods are not applicable in a humid environment.

"We had to find a way to create an adhesive that hardens at the right time without the influence of environmental conditions, so electricity was the best approach for us. The hardness of our glue can be adjusted by the time the voltage is applied to it," Steele said.

This unique property allows Voltaglue to be suitable for various applications. For example, when gluing metal panels under water, a solid connection is necessary for a long time, and for medical applications, the glue should be more elastic.

Voltaglue is developed using hydrogels consisting of carbon molecules called carbenes grafted onto branched-form molecules known as dendrimers. Upon contact with electricity, chemically active carbenes, which are able to cling to any adjacent surface, will be released. The number of such "hooks" depends on the duration of the voltage application and the concentration of carbenes.

Another distinctive feature of the new glue is that it makes it possible to produce products that can be easily disposed of, reused or restored, which will reduce the amount of waste and energy consumption.

A team of researchers is now working on reducing the curing time of their new glue to a few seconds, compared to about 30 seconds currently.

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