Purdue Researchers Turn Food into Glue

Purdue Researchers Turn Food into Glue

Almost all the glues currently used in electronics and other consumer products are petroleum-derived, permanent and often toxic.

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December 6, 2019

A group of Purdue University scientists have taken inspiration from the kitchen and the ocean to create strong glues. The team’s work is published in the Oct. 8 edition of Advanced Sustainable Systems.

Almost all the glues used in electronics and other consumer products are petroleum-derived, permanent and often toxic, said Gudrun Schmidt, an associate professor of practice in Purdue’s College of Science. The Purdue team chose compounds in foods, like nuts, fruits and plants, all of which might have similar chemistry to the adhesives seen in shellfish that stick to rocks.

“Adhesives are used in almost every consumer product that we touch each day,” said Schmidt, who helped lead the research team. “We would love to leave this planet a better place for the future generations. It turns out creating new adhesives is one way that we will get there.”

The team included Jonathan Wilker, a Purdue professor of chemistry and materials engineering, who studies mussels and oysters to create adhesives based on how those shellfish stick to rocks.

The Purdue University team chose compounds in foods, like plants, nuts and fruits, all of which might have similar chemistry to the adhesives seen in shellfish that stick to rocks. “We have created high-performance, tunable adhesives that are nontoxic and degradable,” Schmidt said. “We found that some combinations of zein protein and tannic acid could be reacted together in order to generate high-performance adhesives that could be alternatives to carcinogenic formaldehyde used in the glues that hold lots of furniture and other household items together. It would be a big health benefit if we could switch over to bio-based or even food-based adhesives.”

Schmidt said other potential applications for the adhesives include cardboard packaging, cosmetics and construction materials like plywood.

The researchers have worked on patenting their technologies with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. Ongoing efforts include potential development of a startup company based upon these new adhesives. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at otcip@prf.org and reference track code 2017”WILK”67873.