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Bacterial Superglue

June 1, 2006

Bacteria could be the source of an amazing new super-glue.


The stickiest stuff known to science. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The toughest glue around doesn’t come from the hardware store, but from bacteria. A water-loving microbe called Caulobacter crescentus produces the super-sticky goo to cling to rocks in rushing currents. Brown University physicist Jay Tang and his colleagues recently tested its strength. The results?

JAY TANG (Brown University):
It is stronger than commercial superglues by a factor of 2 or 3.

Of course, the bacteria produce only tiny amounts. But Tang says that theoretically, a patch of this glue the size of your palm could support 60 metric tons.

So that’s equivalent to the weight of 12 elephants.

If it were mass-produced, a glue that strong could be used to make devices like surgical implants virtually unbreakable. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.