"Hyper glue" adhesive forges new bonds at the molecular level
Modern adhesives can work wonders when say, applying a bumper sticker to your car or engaging in some arts and crafts, but there are still many materials that resist their sticky grasp. Now scientists in Canada have come up with a new formula they say can fill the gaps, using ultra-strong connections at the molecular level to create new kinds of bonds between unlikely material partners.
The research was carried out by material scientists at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria, who describe their new adhesive as a “hyper glue.” The key to the new formula is a process described as cross-linking, which takes place when the team's specially designed molecules are exposed to heat or long-wave UV light, causing a new kind of chemical reaction.
"These molecules can be thermally or photochemically activated to form carbenes that readily insert into the polymer carbon-hydrogen bonds, thus leading to cross-linking," the researchers write.
According to the team, these cross-linked bonds can hold together different materials while remaining impact and corrosion resistant. The technique can be “broadly applied” to plastics and synthetic fibers, creating opportunities to mix and match materials that commercially available glues are unable to bring together.
“It turns out the adhesive is particularly effective in high-density polyethylene, which is an important plastic used in bottles, piping, geomembranes, plastic lumber and many other applications,” says lead researcher Professor Abbas Milani. “In fact, commercially available glues didn’t work at all on these materials, making our discovery an impressive foundation for a wide range of important uses.”
One of the more promising applications the scientists envision for their new hyper glue is as a bonding agent for more robust clothing. The team is already working with other researchers on new types of apparel for first responders, including high-performance body armor with ballistic protection.
“By using this cross-linking technology, we’re better able to strongly fuse together different layers of fabric types to create the next generation of clothing for extreme environments,” says Wulff. “At the same time, the cross-linker provides additional material strength to the fabric itself.”
But its potential could extend much further than that. The team also imagine the hyper glue could find use in better medical implants, stronger household plumbing or simply as an additive to give all kinds of regular products a boost in performance.
“Imagine paints that never peel or waterproof coatings that never need to be resealed,” says Milani. “We’re even starting to think about using it as a way to bond lots of different plastic types together, which is a major challenge in the recycling of plastics and their composites. There is real potential to make some of our everyday items stronger and less prone to failure, which is what many chemists and composite materials engineers strive for.”
The team has published its research in the journal Science.
Source: University of British Columbia