When you go to the beach, one of the things you see is a range of other sea creatures, such as mussels, barnacles and oysters, stuck strongly to the rocks. These marine animals can stick easily underwater, yet man-made adhesives struggle in wet environments. Underwater adhesion is a challenge, so scientists are looking to marine animals such as barnacles for inspiration.
When a barnacle sticks to something, it lives there for its entire life of approximately 8 to 20 years. Barnacles make a permanent glue called a cement to stay in place in strong sea currents. The strong cement can withstand the harsh environment of the ocean, allowing the barnacle to absorb food such as plankton and algae from the surrounding water. Pretty remarkable!
Barnacles can attach themselves to almost anything including natural objects such as rocks or man-made objects such as boats, and also to animals including turtles, whales and crabs.
Understanding the mechanisms of how barnacles stick could lead to new natural nontoxic bioinspired glues which may have uses as medical glues for surgical procedures or in dentistry.