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Materials—Mussel-like stickiness

Researchers developed a new material using epoxy mixed with a form of lignin naturally rich in hydroxyl groups that can self-heal if sliced and elongate up to 2,000%. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Topic: Clean Energy

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new, stretchy plant-derived material that outperforms the adhesiveness of the natural chemical that gives mussels the ability to stick to rocks and ships. This bio-based material composed of lignin, the substance that gives plants sturdiness, and epoxy can self-heal and elongate up to 2,000%. Researchers developed a unique method to extract a specific form of lignin, a by-product of biofuels production. “We targeted a component of lignin that is naturally rich in hydroxyl groups,” said ORNL’s Amit Naskar. “The molecular structure creates a super-sticky, highly elastic material that can heal quickly, where broken, through hydrogen bonding.” This extracted lignin shows promise to replace dopamine for a range of industrial applications including coatings, glues and hydrogels. The results, published in ACS Macro Letters, demonstrate new potential for a small, but high-value portion of the lignin waste stream from biorefineries and the pulp and paper industry.