Niels Holten-Anderson – a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Chicago – says mussels do two things really well. They excrete a sticky _______ and they can use that natural glue to repair the anchoring bond.
Niels Holten-Anderson: «And the important thing to remember is that there are no cells. There is no live or living activity taking place inside these materials. The material is basically a dead material, just like our hair. So this capacity to re-heal itself is completely automatic, and it’s not _______ on any sort of energy input from living cells.»
Holten-Anderson and colleagues at the University of Chicago, and a team of international scientists have worked on how to turn what mussels do naturally into a _______ material. They zeroed in on the chemistry of what the mollusks secrete and discovered metal mixed inside their thin, hold-fast _______. Holten-Anderson says iron is a key ingredient that makes the adhesive strong and _______.
Niels Holten-Anderson: «The unique thing is you can pull them apart and if you leave them be, they can find their _______ again and re-heal, and that’s where the re-healing and its original strength comes from.»
Holten-Anderson and colleagues set out to _______ that in the laboratory using a synthetic polymer or a simplified version of a string of mussel protein molecules. They succeeded when they pre-mixed the polymer with metal _______ at low pH.
Niels Holten-Anderson: «You instantly get an initiation of these self-healing strong gel-like, sticky materials as soon as you do this basically step-wise process of mixing things, and then increase the pH potentially _______ what actually happens in the natural case anyway.»
Iron is the metal available to mussels in the environment. Holten-Anderson says scientists can expand that _______ and experiment with other metals.
Niels Holten-Anderson: «We’ve shown so far that a metal such as titanium, for example, which is interesting from the bio-medical side of things with _______ materials and so forth, that we can actually use titanium atoms too to cross in these materials and those materials seem to have even stronger, or even higher strength than the iron based materials.»
Holten-Anderson expects the nature-inspired material will have practical medical and _______ uses. A patent is pending on how to make the gel, which is described online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.