Geckel: stick to it!
Geckos are remarkable in their ability to scurry up vertical surfaces and even move along upside down. That’s one. Water is an enemy of adhesives, which typically do not work well in wet environments. That’s two. Now two in one: two Northwestern University biomedical engineers (a student and his teacher) have successfully married the gecko's adhesive ability with that of the mussel to create a new adhesive material, called “Geckel.” It sticks strongly but reversibly in any environment, including water.
According to its parents, Haeshin Lee and Phillip B. Messersmith, “Geckel could be used to replace sutures for wound closure and may also be useful as a water-resistant adhesive for bandages and drug-delivery patches. Such a bandage would remain firmly attached to the skin during bathing but would permit easy removal upon healing.” Besides, it is going to last more than the injury: it sticks through 1,000 contact/release cycles.
Messersmith and Lee imitated a gecko's foot by nanofabricating arrays of silicone pillars that exhibit enough flexibility to adapt to rough surfaces. Next they brought in the mussel power, coating the pillars with a very thin layer of a synthetic polymer, designed by the researchers, that mimics the wet adhesive mussel proteins. Geckel is not yet on the market, but since its creation was supported by the National Institute of Health and NASA, it will certainly come soon.
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