If you’ve ever gone swimming with a band aid on, you understand that water and adhesives are an ill-fated combination. Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore seem to have solved that problem with a glue that only hardens when electric voltage is applied.
Created by assistant Professor Terry Steele and a team of scientists, Voltaglue is significant because it isn’t affected by changes in the environment. So while other superglues harden when exposed to high heat or moisture in the air–and regular glues loose their stickiness under the same conditions–this glue hardens when electrocuted and loses none of its strength when exposed to the elements.
Now for the super technical part: Steele and his team have been working for over a year to create Voltaglue. They developed it using hydrogels made from carbon molecules that are grafted onto tree-shaped plastic known as dendrimers. Upon contact with electricity, the reactive carbon molecules release and hook onto nearby surfaces. The more voltage, the more the carbon “hooks” are released.
In other words, the glue becomes stronger the longer electricity is applied. This gives the glue all sorts of practical applications, such as patching up underwater pipes or cracks in a boat. It could even be used by surgeons to connect internal tissues during medical operations.
The teams next steps? Making the glue reversible, so that an electric shock could also soften the glue and release its hold. This would open up even more exciting real world applications, particularly for the auto and boat industries, which could use it to assemble and dissemble parts without bolts or screws. But a reversible glue would be great news for everyone: being able to take products apart easily would allow them to be recycled, reused, and remanufactured sustainably.