February 15, 2010

Chemical Velcro Ten Times Stickier than Velcro

General Motors researchers have made an extremely strong adhesive that comes apart when heated. The adhesive is 10 times stickier than Velcro and the reusable gecko-inspired glues that many research groups have been trying to perfect.

The polymers in the glue bond to each other within minutes when they are initially heated. Thus, when two pieces of the adhesive materials are heated, they stick together strongly. Once stuck, it takes a lot of force to peel the polymers away from each other, but they come apart easily when heated again. The researchers were able to attach and pull apart the polymers twice before losing one-third of the adhesive strength, according to a Langmuir paper published online.

* The adhesive strength of the material is 700 newtons per square centimeter.
* The best gecko glue, by contrast, can withstand a force of 100 newtons before coming apart.

You can think of the material as a "chemical Velcro," says Tao Xie, a polymer scientist who is leading the work at the GM Research and Development Center in Warren, MI. "Here the advantage is that the bond is almost as good as the liquid-based curable adhesive we're more familiar with."

The adhesive could lead to cars that are easy and cheap to customize. Xie envisions interchangeable car bumpers and trim in different colors. Customers could even specify where they wanted their radio, GPS system, or cup holders placed.

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