Octopus inspires highly adhesive patch

A researcher showing a strip of the new "wet-tolerant" adhesive patch.
A researcher showing a strip of the new "wet-tolerant" adhesive patch.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEOUL • The clinging power of octopus tentacles has inspired a breakthrough new adhesive patch that works on wet and oily surfaces and has potentially huge medical and industrial uses, according to South Korean researchers.

"Two years ago, we bought an octopus from a Lotte supermarket, put its suction cups under a microscope and analysed how they worked," said researcher Sangyul Baik from Sungkyunkwan University.

The team found that the octopus' impressive suction power was a result of small balls inside the suction cups that line each of its tentacles.

The new "wet-tolerant" adhesive patch has been hailed as a breakthrough by the country's science and technology ministry and there are hopes it can be used for everything from heavy industry to dressing wounds.

Professor Changhyun Pang said the team managed to fabricate polymer patches covered with micro suction cups with suction power so strong that a patch the size of a thumbnail could lift an object of up to 400g in water.

It can also be used repeatedly, with one patch surviving more than 10,000 cycles of attachment and detachment without losing its suction power, he said.

"This octopus-inspired system exhibits strong, highly repeatable adhesion to silicon, glass and rough skin surfaces under various conditions - dry, moist, underwater and under oil," said the research paper, which was published in Nature last week.

The new patch is expected to be commercialised in about three years.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2017, with the headline 'Octopus inspires highly adhesive patch'. Print Edition | Subscribe