Ouchless, residue-free, and durable: could beetles’ feet hold the secret to better bandages? Researchers from Korea and the US have used the same design that gives beetles their grip to invent a material that sticks to skin without any help from glue. Their work, published this month in the journal Advanced Materials, paves the way toward an improved form of medical adhesive.
Many medical treatments require adhesives that cling to skin to hold tubes or dressings in place. However, most use glue and can leave behind residue, irritate skin and lose stickiness, not to mention how much they can hurt to remove. These inconveniences become more serious for older patients who have fragile skin, meaning that a better material could really improve care.
The engineers took on this problem, but instead of trying to refine the glue, they designed a surface that is sticky on its own. They used PDMS, a non-toxic substance used in contact lenses, shampoo and food, and moulded it so that hundreds of thousands of tiny, mushroom-shaped ‘pillars’ covered every square centimetre. Once pillar size and spacing had been optimised for the texture of human skin, their product performed well in practical tests. It remained sticky after repeated removals and reapplications, left skin unharmed, and caused minimal pain to remove.
The ‘mushroom forest’ arrangement mimics beetles’ feet, where tiny mushroom-shaped hairs allow the beetle to cling to surfaces, taking advantage of forces of attraction on a molecular scale. While it’s not the first time engineers have tinkered with the beetle’s design secret, it is the first time that such an adhesive has been optimised for human skin. Further work is required to produce this glue-free adhesive on a large scale, but if that can be done, then we can expect the beetle-based bandage to stick around.
Read original paper here
Posted on Wednesday, 21st September, 2011