How barnacles could lead to innovation in industrial adhesive development

Nature and science have an incredible overlap, with scientists learning a lot from natural elements; for example, scientists need look no further than sticky-bottomed barnacles when researching natural bonding agents.

How barnacles could lead to innovation in industrial adhesive development

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These marine crustaceans can be seen stuck to hard surfaces in shallow water such as rocks, boats, docks and even whales. The part of their little bodies that scientists are interested in to further the research into adhesive development has been likened to cement, so it is clearly tough stuff.

When living things have exactly what science needs

The cement-like substance has been a mystery to biologists and marine scientists for quite some time; now, scientists have found that the gluey material that makes barnacles stick to hard objects so well is similar to blood’s amazing ability to bind together to clot when scabs form. Previously science could not support this recent discovery, making it very exciting in the science world.

BBC Earth News rightly notes that the barnacle itself is not responsible for the sticky substance; instead, the crustacean secretes the substance when it needs to keep itself anchored to a hard object. This secretion has the ability to be helpful in so many areas with a need for an extra strength adhesive, from medical sutures to orthopaedics and even metal bonding adhesives.

Inspired by nature’s super glue

Barnacles and their helpful cement-like secretions have amazingly moved medicine and engineering forward. This has led to innovation in industrial adhesive development that is more far-reaching than might first be realised. Many metals are hard to bond to each other due to the nature of the material and the lack of movement once bonded.

Metal to metal adhesives, such as those available from, benefit from a bonding agent containing shock absorbers similar to the secretions from a barnacle. This facilitates an adhesive with excellent bonding properties for any type of metal and enough flexibility for both metals involved to stay adhered as needed.

Being a relative of the shrimp, crab and lobster, it might seem a little odd that barnacles would be the one member of this crustacean family to give such inspiration to so many fields. It begs the question of what else could be lying just below the surface of the ocean, waiting to be discovered by a scientist.