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Discovering How Nature Makes Materials

2010-09-20

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Jonathan Wilker
Associate Professor Inorganic Chemistry

The Wilker Group's ongoing research of marine biological materials has found that the adhesive produced by oysters is a unique material. Their findings will appear in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

"We wanted to learn how oysters attach themselves to surfaces, and each other, when building reef structures," said Purdue University chemist Jonathan Wilker, one of the lead researchers on the study. "Such knowledge can help us develop biomedical materials including wet setting surgical adhesives. These insights may also help us prevent marine bioadhesion for keeping ship hulls clean, thereby reducing drag, fuel consumption, and carbon emissions."

By comparing the oyster shells (inside and out) with the material connecting oyster to oyster, the researchers were able to determine the chemical composition of the cementing material.

"Our results indicate that there is a chemically distinct adhesive material holding the oysters together," said Wilker. "The cement contains significantly more protein than the shell. We also observed both iron and highly oxidized, cross-linked proteins, which may play a role in curing the material."

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation through the Chemistry of Life Processes program under grant CHE-0952928 and the Office of Naval Research through their Biofouling Control Coatings research program.

Source:
National Science Foundation, Press Release

Related links:
Wilker Research Group

JACS abstract
New York Times story
Purdue press release
NPR audio story

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