New `superglue` that stays stickier in space

A recently patented adhesive could soon find its place in every astronaut`s toolbox.

Updated: Mar 24, 2011, 17:45 PM IST

Washington: A recently patented adhesive, developed by Kansas State University, could soon find its place in every astronaut``s toolbox.

The adhesive made from peptides -- a compound containing two or more amino acids that link together – gains strength as moisture is removed.

“The adhesive we ended up developing was one that formed nanoscale fibrils that become entangled, sort of like Velcro. It has all these little hooks that come together,” said John Tomich, professor of biochemistry and one of the researchers who created the adhesive.

"It``s a mechanical type of adhesion, though, not a chemical type like most commercial adhesives," he said.

Because of its unusual properties, applications will most likely be outside the commercial sector, he added.

For example, unlike most adhesives that become brittle as moisture levels decrease, the K-State adhesive``s bond only becomes stronger.

Because of this, it could be useful in low-moisture environments like outer space, where astronauts could use it to reattach tiles to a space shuttle.

Conversely, its deterioration from water could also serve a purpose.

"It could be used as a timing device or as a moisture detection device. There could be a circuit or something that when the moisture got to a certain level, the adhesive would fail and break the circuit, sounding an alarm," said Tomich.