Enhancing the bonding of synthetic polymers mimicking marine bioadhesives

Heather Jean Meredith, Purdue University


Marine organisms, such as mussels, are giving inspiration to a new generation of adhesive materials. The adhesive plaques of these shellfish are made up of proteins that contain a high amount of the amino acid, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA). This catechol moiety provides cross-linking chemistry that allows these animals to bond tightly to rocks and each other, even when wet. In developing synthetic mimics of mussel adhesive proteins, we are incorporating simplified forms of cross-linkable monomers into synthetic polymer backbones. One such example is poly[(3,4-dihydroxystyrene)-co-styrene] in which 3,4-dihydroxystyrene can provide cross-linking analogous to DOPA. In order to enhance adhesive bonding of these biomimetic polymers even further, we are carrying out systematic studies on the influences provided by polymer composition, molecular weight, and the presence of fillers, as well as other parameters. Recent work in our laboratory has revealed that bonding of poly[(3,4-dihydroxystyrene)- co-styrene] can exceed that of commercial adhesives including Super Glue. Further modifications to incorporate varying percentages of oligo(ethylene glycol) into the backbone of a DOPA- based polymers has resulted in a new family of adhesives with tunable mechanical properties. Using biomimetic chemistry, we were able to systematically modify the composition of an adhesive terpolymer to identify regions of optimal bonding. The adhesive can be tailored to solve challenging bonding problems related to joining soft-to- soft, hard-to-hard, and soft-to-hard substrates. Designing these biomimetic systems into functional materials with high performance could benefit the automotive, aerospace, and biomedical industries.




Youngblood, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Biochemistry|Polymer chemistry|Engineering

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server