RESEARCH COLLABORATIONS

Startup to market sustainable marine adhesive by Purdue University

SOURCE: Boris Horvat / AFP
The innovative adhesive technology mimics how mussels stick to substrates.


By U2B Staff 

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The Purdue University research community has made great progress in bringing innovative scientific advancements from lab to market to solve various industry and real-world problems. 

The latest instance of this is the transformation of industrial adhesives for a range of uses ranging from biomedical to aerospace. 

The result is the creation of a novel underwater adhesive technology based on a natural glue used by marine creatures to stick to surfaces under the sea. 

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This patented technology was developed under the Purdue Research Foundation and was licensed by Mussel Polymers Inc., a startup created by technology development company Wardenclyffe Chemicals Inc. 

The development of this innovative, sustainable, and toxic-free chemical adhesive was a result of research efforts that lasted over a decade by Purdue professor of chemistry and materials engineering Doctor Jonathan Wilker and his team from the Wilker Laboratory.  

The adhesive’s scientific name is called poly(catechol-styrene), or PCS and was engineered to mimic the glue that mussels naturally use to attach to substrates in the ocean. 

This is an expansion of Dr Wilker’s extensive research into marine biological materials and is the first of its kind to enter the market in decades. It was funded by a US$2 million grant from the Office of Naval Research

“We have been studying sea creatures, how they stick, and designing synthetic mimics of these materials,” said Dr Wilker in a media statement.

“Now we are quite excited to move these new materials from the research lab into the marketplace. There is potential here to impact several industries, including products that people use in their daily lives.” 

The Mussel Polymers Inc. team licensed this technology through the Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialisation. 

“The entire Purdue Research Foundation and OTC teams were extraordinary in helping us move through the process of licensing this technology, laying the groundwork for taking it to market,” said Wardenclyffe Chemicals Inc. CEO George Boyajian. 

“The adhesive technology addresses a range of previously unsolvable wet adhesion problems in a variety of industries from biomedical to aerospace to automotive to cosmetics and construction.”

“The Mussel Polymers team has done the research and has the resources to take this novel Purdue technology to the next level through the market to industries and customers. It is another success story from the Purdue commercialization ecosystem,” added Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization Vice President Brooke Beier. 

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This new adhesive will be put to good use as Wardenclyffe recently received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop the adhesive for use in the restoration of coral reefs. 

Purdue and other institutions of higher education are constantly coming up with newer and more sustainable advancements to solve industry problems and to make processes more efficient and eco-friendly. 

It’s up to innovative businesses with the power to put these research outputs into action to propel these advancements into the market.