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New 'space glue' developed

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Manhattan, Kan. (UPI) Mar 23, 2011
Researchers at Kansas State University say they've developed a new kind of adhesive that may someday be a staple item in every astronaut's toolbox.

The adhesive made from peptides -- a compound containing two or more amino acids that link together -- gains more and more strength as moisture is removed, making it a perfect adhesive for use in the vacuum of space, a KSU release reported Wednesday.

The bond the adhesive creates is mechanical, not chemical, the researchers said.

"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," biochemistry Professor John Tomich said. "It's a mechanical type of adhesion, though, not a chemical type like most commercial adhesives."

Unlike most adhesives that become brittle as moisture levels decrease, the peptide adhesive's bond only becomes stronger, making it useful in low-moisture environments such as outer space, where astronauts could use it to reattach tiles to a space shuttle, researchers say.

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