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Mussels are an inspiring new technology that could help clean water and clean up oil spills


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Mussels are stowaways known to damage the hulls of ships, but these same adhesive properties have many technical applications, scientists in China and the United States wrote in a July 10 issue of the newspaper. material. They suggest that mussel net chemistry inspires technical innovations that solve a wide range of problems, from the cleaning of oil spills to the treatment of contaminated water.

The mussels resist strong currents and powerful waves by attaching themselves to rocks with surprisingly robust byssus wire clusters. These yarns owe their adhesive strength to a group of amino acids called dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA), which adheres to the surface by performing a series of molecular gymnastics, including hydrogen bonds and hydrophobic and electrostatic interactions.

Scientists have discovered that DOPA can adhere to all kinds of solid substrates through these interactions, as can dopamine, a structural molecule similar to DOPA. Research suggesting that dopamine can form a universal coating over a wide range of substrates has stimulated the growth of mold-inspired chemistry as a powerful new tool for surface engineering of materials and sciences. from the environment.

"Mussels are widely considered a nuisance in marine industries because they will colonize submerged surfaces," said Hao-Cheng Yang, a researcher at the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology at Sun Yat-sen University in China. "But from another point of view, the robust fixation of molds on substrates under water has inspired a biomimetic strategy to achieve strong adhesion between materials in the water."

A variety of innovations inspired by mussels are already underway. A group of researchers in China has developed a universal red blood cell that can be accepted by individuals of any blood group. It uses mold-inspired coatings to protect the cell from detection by the body's immune system (and thus to prevent the immune response that would result).

Other research has led to the development of superior materials for the separation of oil and water, which could help mitigate environmental damage to marine environments after oil spills. Unlike some previously developed materials, researchers believe that these mold-based innovations may be suitable for large-scale production. The mussels also inspired the progress of water purification technology. Innovative materials capable of removing heavy metals, organic pollutants and wastewater pathogens are being developed from polymerized dopamine, which readily binds to these contaminants or other materials possessing such capture properties.

However, although the binding properties of mussels have inspired a variety of recent research, there are still problems to overcome before they can be applied in the real world. Scientists are still working to fully understand the structure-property relationships of mold-inspired chemicals such as polydopamine and to understand the complex network of interactions between amino acids that influence their adhesive properties.

"Despite the simplicity and efficiency, there are always inherent limitations," Yang said. "Alkaline conditions are generally required to achieve dopamine polymerization, so it can not be applied to unstable materials under alkaline conditions, and PDA deposition is a time-consuming process. it takes dozens of hours to form a uniform coating on most material surfaces. "

Some researchers hope to overcome these difficulties by finding inexpensive, stable and safe substitutes for polydopamine, such as polyphenols.

Sticky molds still inspire the biomedical engineer

More information:
material, Wang and Yang et al .: "Mold-inspired surface engineering for water remediation materials" https://www.cell.com/matter/fulltext/S2590-2385(19 30027-X, DOI: 10.1016 / d. matt.2019.05.002

Mussels are an inspiring new technology that could help clean water and clean up spills (July 10, 2019)
recovered on July 10, 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-mussels-technology-purify-oil.html

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