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Integrating Mussel Chemistry into a Bio-Based Polymer to Create Degradable Adhesives

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-01-04, 00:00 authored by Courtney L. Jenkins, Heather M. Siebert, Jonathan J. Wilker
Adhesives releasing carcinogenic formaldehyde are almost everywhere in our homes and offices. Most of these glues are permanent, preventing disassembly and recycling of the components. New materials are thus needed to bond and debond without releasing reactive pollutants. In order to develop the next generation of advanced adhesives we have turned to biology for inspiration. The bonding chemistry of mussel proteins was combined with preformed poly­(lactic acid), a bio-based polymer, by utilizing side reactions of Sn­(oct)2, to create catechol-containing copolymers. Structure–function studies revealed that bulk adhesion was comparable to that of several petroleum-based commercial glues. Bonds could then be degraded in a controlled fashion, separating substrates gradually using mild hydrolysis conditions. These results show that biomimetic design principles can bring about the next generation of adhesive materials. Such new copolymers may help replace permanent materials with renewable and degradable adhesives that do not create chronic exposure to toxins.