Environment

Biodegradable adhesive breaks down when discarded

Biodegradable adhesive breaks ...
The glue is intended to ultimately perform at least as well as traditional plastic-based adhesives
The glue is intended to ultimately perform at least as well as traditional plastic-based adhesives
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The glue is intended to ultimately perform at least as well as traditional plastic-based adhesives
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The glue is intended to ultimately perform at least as well as traditional plastic-based adhesives

While it's good that there are plastics which biodegrade when they're thrown away, the glue used to join pieces of those or other materials together isn't quite so eco-friendly. Scientists have recently set about addressing that problem, however, by developing a biodegradable adhesive.

Created by a team at Boston University, the substance has a honey-like consistency. It's made up of a blend of naturally-sourced biopolymers along with its key ingredient, carbon dioxide. By varying the polymer-to-CO2 ratio, it's possible to adjust the sticking strength, which can range from that of Scotch tape to permanent wood glue.

It's additionally possible to tweak the material's ability to stick to different types of surfaces, some of which could reportedly include metal, glass, wood and Teflon. The adhesive can also stick to wet surfaces, plus it's biocompatible. This means that it could conceivably be used as a surgical glue within the body, and as an alternative to bandages for closing external wounds.

Whatever it does end up being used for, the adhesive should harmlessly break down in the environment within no more than a year after being discarded. And as added benefit, it could put industrial carbon dioxide emissions to good use.

"We tend to think of carbon as a polluting gas in the atmosphere, and it can be, in excessive amounts," says Prof. Mark Grinstaff, whose team developed the adhesive. "But what’s exciting is that this material repurposes carbon dioxide that would otherwise go into the atmosphere, and there’s a potential for oil refineries and production plants to repurpose the gas for environmentally-friendly polymers. So it’s a win for the environment and a win for the consumer, as it can potentially lower the price of goods since CO2 is a cheap raw material."

The research is described in a paper that was published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: Boston University

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