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Artificial Tentacles Point the Way to Underwater Adhesives

Artificial Tentacles Point the Way to Underwater Adhesives

tentacles

Since we live in different parts of the planet — dry vs. wet — humans and octopuses rarely cross paths. The general public has only recently begun hearing news that this sometime-sashimi is actually a remarkably intelligent animal. Octopuses are perhaps even more long-lived in their intelligence than us!
 
Science is now looking at the foreign world of the octopus to shed light on human problems that need solving. A team out of Sungkyunkwan University is attempting to find the best format for to a water-resistant adhesive. And through that effort, they are learning about what an engineering marvel our cephalopod friends are!
 
“If you’ve ever seen an octopus tentacle, you’d know it’s covered in little suckers, each a deep suction cup with a ball in the middle. [Assistant professor Changhyun] Pang and his team wanted to figure out how the tentacles stuck to things underwater, so they made their own tentacles. Rather than a long appendage with protrusions, they instead produced a polymer sheet with dimples tens of micrometers across, each with a little sphere in the middle.

They experimented with various sucker radii, finding that the stickiest adhesive had 50 micrometer dimples arranged fairly densely. They tried several different dimple shapes, and the octopus-inspired one was the stickiest by far under moist conditions, underwater, and under oil.”
 
A tape-like product with octopus-derived suckers on it could have many applications, including moving items underwater, preventing barnacles from adhering to surfaces, and, most importantly, creating a medical adhesive that could close wounds in wet or underwater conditions. The team considers itself on track for commercial applications to be rolled out in three years! I look forward to the fruits of this collaboration between invertebrates and their less lucky counterparts — us.