Shedding light on stickiness

Polymer chemists have long hoped to mimic the adhesive powers of sea creatures such as mussels which exude proteins that allow them to stick to oceanic rocks even in the roughest of seas. Until now, attempts have led only to materials that, while sticky, harden in air very quickly and so are rendered useless in medical and engineering applications where time to position components to be glued is needed. Now, Atsushi Takahara of Kyushu University, Japan and colleagues have synthesized a sticky acrylamide polymer that contains, catechols (which are present in the mussel proteins) protected by o-nitrobenzyl groups to prevent oxidation. They found that when exposed to light this material begins to harden but the process takes about 30 minutes, plenty of time to position two objects to be stuck together, such as tissues or engineering components.