New snail-inspired super glue can switch between sticky and non-sticky states

Whether it’s robots modeled on cockroaches or medical adhesives derived from Chinese giant salamander excretions, the tech and scientific communities love nothing more than finding unique ways to repurpose the natural world. The latest example of this? A team of international researchers, hailing from the University of Pennsylvania, Lehigh University, and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, who have developed a new type of snail mucus-inspired super glue. Unlike ordinary glues, however, this type of super glue-like material can be easily reversed. That means that it can easily switch between being an ultra strong adhesive and an unglued state.

“In our daily life, we use adhesives in many occasions,” Shu Yang, professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, told Digital Trends. “We have a choice of using glue, which is liquid and permanent after cure and could be messy to apply, or tape, which is neater, flat, but less strong in adhesion strength. While glue offers stronger adhesion, once applied if we made a mistake or it’s not perfectly aligned, we cannot take the glued object apart and redo it. Think of a car assembly, an expensive art piece, a computer chip, or holding a microwave on a wall. If we use a scotch tape, we could remove it and reapply, but it’s because it doesn’t stick to the substrate very [strongly as] there is no chemical reaction.”

The material developed by the researchers is inspired by the mucus secretion made by snails. This allows them to stick to rough surfaces such as rocks, but also easily unattach themselves when needed. The team has created a gel which, when hydrated, conforms to the surface and then adheres as it dries. This effect is reversible.

Yang suggests that the super strong reversible adhesive could be useful for everything from transferring heavy objects (picking them up and dropping them off, without damage, simply by rehydrating and dehydrating the material) to chip manufacturing to wall climbing. In other words, if you’ve ever dreamed of being Spider-Man (or, perhaps, Snail-Man) this could be your lucky day!

“We have filed a patent on this and would love to work with someone to commercialize it,” Yang said. “I see the impact of scientific research [as being to] bring knowledge to benefit our daily life.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Emerging Tech

Photorealistic A.I. tool can fill in gaps in images, including faces

Researchers have developed a smart new A.I. system which can accurately fill in blank areas in an image, whether that’s a missing face or the front of a building. Here's how it works.
Home Theater

How to wall mount a TV: Tips and tricks to cut down on frustration

This how-to guide includes a video on how to wall mount a TV, along with other tips and tricks about the process. Step by step, we'll take you through what you have to do to successfully get your TV on your wall.
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here's all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Emerging Tech

Bacteria could help mass-produce wonder material graphene at scale

Researchers from the U.S. and the Netherlands have figured out how to produce wonder material graphene by mixing oxidized graphite with bacteria. Here's why their work could be a game-changer.
Emerging Tech

This compact drone gun can down a rogue quadcopter at 500 meters

The latest drone gun from DroneShield is its most compact yet and can be easily operated with one hand. The DroneGun MkIII can tackle rogue drones up to 500 meters away, using jamming technology to take control of the machine.
Emerging Tech

Space food: Humble chili pepper to become first fruit grown in space

The Española chili pepper could become the first fruiting plant to be grown and harvested in space. If successful, it will expand the range of foods able to be used for future, more ambitious missions to planets such as Mars.
Emerging Tech

See how a life-sized astronaut was built from LEGO bricks

LEGO has unveiled a life-sized model of an astronaut constructed entirely from bricks, as well as a time lapse video of the model being built. It is based on the suit Neil Armstrong wore when he made his historic small step.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Twitter’s redesign, Libra’s possible delay, Neuralink

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including a Twitter redesign, Facebook's delay of Libra, Neuralink's first public event, growing food in space, and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk’s Neuralink wants to start operating on human brains next year

Elon Musk shed more light on his Neuralink company on Tuesday, revealing new technology for brain surgery that would allow people with paralysis to use thoughts to control smartphones and computers. But that wasn't all ...
Emerging Tech

It sounds like utter madness, but you can now buy a flamethrower drone

The TF-19 WASP Flamethrower Drone is a quadcopter attachment for drones which, according to its creators, 'allows users to ignite aerial and ground targets from miles away.' What could go wrong?
Emerging Tech

Genetically modified plants could help get to the root of climate change

Researchers have been investigating ways to engineer plants so that they grow with more robust and deeper roots, capable of storing increasing amounts of carbon underground for longer.
Photography

With object tracking, the lightweight DJI Ronin-SC is still heavy on features

Designed for mirrorless cameras, the DJI Ronin-SC packs several features from the Ronin-S -- and then some -- into a lighter, one-handed gimbal. Despite the smaller size, the DJI Ronin-S adds new object tracking and expanded remote control.
News

SpaceX’s Starhopper rocket bursts into flames during tests

SpaceX ran into trouble Tuesday evening when a small fire erupted from the engine of a prototype rocket it was testing at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas. It's not clear if the fire caused any damage to the rocket itself
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Emoji Day, Apollo 11 broadcast, drone flamethrowers

On this episode of DT Live, we discuss the top stories in tech, including Emoji Day festivities, the extended battery life of the new Nintendo Switch, an Apollo 11 real-time broadcast, and a functional flamethrower attachment for drones.