New technology that mimics the spike like structures of marine sponges could soon revolutionise the construction industry according to recent research at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States. This remarkable feat of biomimetic engineering could pave the way for improvements in how materials are bonded together and could prove useful in such areas as industrial coatings and in 3D printing.

According to the authors of the study published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, the molecular process could also find uses in such applications as developing coatings for eyeglasses, TV screens, self-cleaning windows and roofs, and in commercial transportation. Clearly the technology’s potential uses are broad, varied and perhaps only limited by the imagination.

In fact, Jaswinder Sharma, one of the three conductors of the study, said that, “We actually developed a process to create new structures, but we didn’t focus on one application when we did that. We looked at a range of applications where this could fit, and we are now trying to explore all those directions.”

The near future will reveal what a broad range of uses and applications the new technology will be put to. It’s certain that the construction industry will want to make full use of these new developments.

How are these ‘spiky screws’ formed? Microscopic segmented spikes are created by applying emulsion droplets to a silica particle’s surface. When tetraethyl orthosilicate is added into the mix, the emulsion droplets begin to form tiny spikes or rods, and the growth of these tiny rod-like spikes can be controlled according to what is required.

These developments are built upon previous research and experiments. Tiny microscopic rods were produced but these were more linear in shape and just weren’t capable of producing the structured patterns that the new spiky screw-like shapes are capable of. The new shape is ideal for the material to maintain a far stronger internal structure and contains properties which are particularly useful in bonding layers.

The authors of the article feel that the possibilities are vast when it comes to future applications. Just how vast we’ll have to wait and see. But one thing seems certain, this biomimetic technology is certain to have a profound effect on many aspects of the construction industry.


Tim Aldiss writes for OSC – faster fasteners for the trade.

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