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National Science Foundation

NSF 07-43, Benchmarks of NSF Innovation

top portion of cover page for the Benchmarks of NSF Innovation, includes illustration of molecule chains above rippling water
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NSF-funded researchers at Indiana and Brown Universities have been studying the strongest natural adhesive known to science. The super-sticky substance is what one species of water-loving bacteria uses to grip its surroundings with a force of roughly five tons per square inch--equivalent to the downward force exerted by three cars balancing on a spot the size of a quarter.

This holding power makes the natural glue stronger than superglues found on store shelves and is rivaled by only a few synthetics. If engineers can find a way to mass-produce the material, it could have uses in medicine, marine technology and a range of other applications.

two bacteria connected at the tip of their stalks

Aquatic bacteria attach to each other by their glue-secreting holdfasts, structures at the tip of their stalks. Engineers are trying to mass produce the glue.

Credit: Yves V. Brun, Indiana University.

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