Bio-Inspired Wet Adhesion

We are focusing on wet adhesive properties of siderophores and siderophore analogs.  Wet adhesion is an engineering challenge that has been solved by many marine animals including the mussel. However, new wet adhesive materials fall far short of their natural archetypes.  Our focus is to investigate mechanistic features which are thought to be important in interfacial mussel foot protein adhesion (Image Gallery Figure 1) in small molecule adhesive compounds.  

A siderophore structure (Image Gallery Figure 2)  is simple in relation to mussel foot proteins and the interpretation of the physical forces that underpin siderophore analog adhesion is relatively straightforward by comparison. By synthetically modifying the structure and organization of amino acids and their side chains within the siderophore analogs, we are able to determine which components and which configurations yield optimal adhesive properties.  The results of this work will ultimately be used to guide the design of larger polymer based synthetic wet adhesives.  We are specifically focused on catechol and lysine due to their high mole percent in naturally occurring adhesive proteins, as well as the use of hydrophobic amino acids due to their potential to displace adsorbed water layers that may otherwise prevent adhesion.


Alison Butler

My research interests are in bioinorganic chemistry and metallobiochemistry with an emphasis on elucidating roles of metal ions in catalysis by metalloenzymes, as well as processes by which microbes acquire metal ions they need to grow. We are currently focusing on the biosynthesis of siderophores in regards to microbial iron acquisition, with a focus on chirality in biosynthesis and chirality of the Fe(III)-siderophores; the role of haloperoxidases in disruption of microbial quorum sensing, as well as in cryptic halogenation reactions; the design of catechol compounds for wet adhesion; and the role of microbial peroxidases in lignin disassembly.

Greg Maier

I’m interested in understanding how mussel foot proteins adhere to surfaces underwater and how to apply what we learn to synthetic adhesives.  I synthesize small molecule models of mussel foot proteins to understand the role of lysine in adhesion.  Additionally, I’m tracking oxidation kinetics of modified catechol in an effort to promote adhesion at physiologically relevant conditions.

Melanie Susman

I study novel siderophores containing the C-diazeniumdiolate binding ligand. My work centers around the characterization of these compounds, as well as their metal binding properties and mechanisms. 

My research also includes the synthesis and surface force analysis of bio-inspired wet adhesive compounds. 

Nick Higdon

Currently, Graduate Student in Chemistry at Caltech

Research Collaborators

UCSB Department of Chemical Engineering, and the UCSB Materials Research Laboratory

UCSB Departments of Molecular Cellular & Developmental Biology and Chemistry & Biochemistry, UCSB Materials Research Laboratory