Despite being made of 90 percent water, MIT's hydrogel superglue is ridiculously strong

The natural properties of some of the world’s most innocuous sea creatures are making their way into mechanical engineering labs. A research team in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering took inspiration from creatures like mussels and barnacles to create a hydrogel superglue that is made almost entirely of water, but is incredibly strong and boasts a wide variety of applications.

Naturally occurring hydrogel mixes water and organic gummy material to allow sea creatures to form durable bonds with their surroundings, or even with passing vessels. The synthetic superglue created in MIT’s Mechanical Engineering lab is more than 90 percent water, and still mimics the durability and versatility of natural hydrogel. It is a mostly transparent adhesive, and its rubbery quality means it can bond any number of materials, including glass, silicon, ceramics, aluminum, titanium and steel.

Durability is an obviously important aspect of inventing a new adhesive solution, but underwater durability is a category all its own. The strength of this hydrogel superglue is one thing, but its water-based constitution also makes it uniquely useful for underwater purposes, like protective coatings on the surfaces of boats, ships, and submarines. What’s more, the fact that that the synthetic hydrogel is 90 percent water makes it biocompatible, and well suited for use in health industry tools like biomedical coatings for internal catheters and sensors.

MIT says their hydrogel superglue is as strong as the bond between tendon and cartilage on bone in the body, and a wide range of durability tests prove that assertion. The team was able to hang a 55-pound weight from two plates of glass glued together with a small area of hydrogel. When hydrogel was applied to a silicon wafer, smashing the silicon caused the pieces to shatter but not disperse, thanks to the strength of the adhesive. On average, researchers on the MIT team found that their hydrogel was much stronger than other existing hydrogel applications, measuring strength up to 1,000 joules per square meter.

Hydrogel is as strong as heavy duty industrial glue, but since it is made mostly of water, it remains soft and pliable. In the future, the tendon and cartilage comparison could go further than a simple demonstration of the hydrogel’s strength. Because hydrogel maintains its softness in spite of its strength and durability, the MIT team is exploring ways to use the adhesive as a synthetic flexible joint in soft robotics development and bioelectronics.

Emerging Tech

This drone with hands looks like a nightmare straight out of Black Mirror

This unlikely drone-with-hands creation is the work of Federico Ciccarese, the brains behind YouBionic, a bionic hand project that has evolved far beyond its original brief. Check it out.
Movies & TV

Who needs sunshine? Stay inside and watch the best movies on Netflix instead

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods — we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our favorites, with all the features you want.
Mobile

Cover your glass with the best cases and covers for Google's Pixel 3 XL

The Pixel 3 XL is Google's plus-sized flagship handset. Having paid $900 for that beast — best make sure you protect it, too. Here are some of the best Pixel 3 XL cases to keep your phone safe.
Mobile

Safeguard your new Apple smartphone with one of our favorite iPhone XS cases

If the iPhone XS is your next device, then you’ll want to shop for some proper protection now. That glass sandwich design is all too easy to scratch or crack, so make sure you snag one of the best iPhone XS cases to keep it looking good.
Emerging Tech

This crazy-looking robot uses microspines on its legs to climb up walls

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have built a bioinspired robot, which uses microspines on its feet to grip onto rough surfaces. This allows it to climb up very steep gradients. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

Got $400 million to burn? The world’s largest airplane is up for sale

Stratolaunch, the world's largest airplane, is up for sale. All it'll cost you is $400 million dollars. The brainchild of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the plane was supposed to make space travel more accessible and affordable.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Florida’s autonomous vehicle law, E3 updates, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including Florida allowing fully autonomous vehicles on the road, Atari’s new gaming system, E3 updates, high-speed rail, and more.
Emerging Tech

Ex astris, scientia: Star Trek logo spotted on the surface of Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been boldly going to Mars and capturing images since 2005, and now it has spotted something where no man has gone before: a structure on the planet's surface which will look familiar to Trekkies.
Emerging Tech

Adobe develops tool to identify Photoshopped images of faces

With deepfake videos making headlines, and campaigns against the Photoshopping of models, people are more aware than ever of the digital manipulation of images. Now Adobe wants to give tools to users to let them spot faked images.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will pave the way for manned missions to Mars

Survival on Mars is a massive challenge for humanity. To cope with the highly variable temperatures, lack of oxygen and water, and high levels of radiation, the Mars 2020 rover will carry instruments to pave the way for human exploration.
Emerging Tech

Facebook builds virtual homes to train A.I. agents in realistic environments

Researchers at Facebook have created Habitat, which is a platform that enables rapid training for A.I. agents. They will receive thousands of hours of training in just a few minutes in the virtual homes.
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods struggles to keep up with Impossible Burger demand

Red Robin and White Castle have reported Impossible Burger shortages, as it appears that Impossible Foods is struggling to keep up with demand. The company will be selling its meat-like patties in retail outlets within the year.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!