Natural Adhesive Is Stronger than Super Glue

What can be better or stronger than Super Glue? Scientists say there is a natural adhesive that's much stronger than the hardware glue we are used to.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

A scientific breakthrough now. NPR's Jon Hamilton has this tale of a natural adhesive that's much stronger than super glue.

JON HAMILTON reporting:

It's hard to describe a glue that's more powerful than just about anything in the real world.

Mr. JAY TANG (Brown University): This is very, very strong.

HAMILTON: Jay Tang of Brown University says it's something like from the world of super heroes.

Mr. TANG: We imagine the Spider Man sticking his palm onto the ceiling. It could pretty much hold about 70 tons of weight, and that's equivalent to 12 elephants.

HAMILTON: The glue is made by bacteria called Caulobacter crescentus. In their youth, these bacteria use flagella to move around. But as they get older, they lose the ability to swim.

Mr. TANG: Instead, they grow a long, thin stalk. And at the end of the stalk they have this patch of sticky stuff by which it sticks to any surface it finds.

HAMILTON: Like rocks in a stream, or the insides of pipes bringing water to your home. Fortunately, these bacteria are harmless. Tang says the fact that this new super glue works on wet surfaces could make it the perfect adhesive to close wounds on the battlefield or in an operating room. And he says it has other benefits...

Mr. TANG: There are actually, biological ways to weaken and even remove the adhesion, quite easily.

HAMILTON: So it's no problem to unstick your fingers if you glue them together. The research appears in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jon Hamilton, NPR News.

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