Santa Clara University

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Finding Strength in Nature

adhesive
Caption: Jens Olesen and Matt Blanco are recording promising results for their nanobioglue. Credit: Heidi Williams

Nature is always the best engineer and now bioengineering students Matt Blanco and Jens Olesen are hoping that by mimicking properties found in marine life, they can improve the adhesive strength of medical glues.

“Biological organisms in nature, such as mussels and barnacles, are known to release secretions containing nanoparticles when adhering to surfaces,” said Olesen, an exchange student from Sweden studying at SCU this year. “Using this concept,” he continued, “we hope to improve the adhesive strength of cyanoacrylate glues by adding carbon nanotubes. If our assumption is correct, our findings would guide the development of stronger medical glues.”

To prove their theory, the team would need a supply of glue, so they contacted Chemence Medical, a leading manufacturer of medical wound closure adhesives. “They offered to share as much of their Derma+flex® adhesive as we needed as long as we promised to share our results with them,” said Blanco. “Of course, we are happy to do With the glue in hand, testing can begin. First, the team disperses varying amounts of carbon nanotube powder into glue, either directly or using a solvent vehicle such as acetone. Next, the altered glue—nanobioglue—is used to affix two titanium plates, and the plates are loaded into an Instron machine to measure the amount of force needed to break the adhesive bond.

“At first we tried using Teflon plates to simulate a bone-like structure, but it was too slippery for the glue. Since titanium implants are so common today, we decided to use that material for our test,” said Blanco; “now we are running tests to see if it takes more force to break the plates apart than it does without the nanoparticles added to the glue.”

Blanco, who plans to go on to medical school after graduation, was originally enrolled in a different engineering program, but switched majors when he discovered bioengineering during orientation. “The bioengineering program takes biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering and combines all these different fields together. I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said.