WASHINGTON, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Mussels, maritime creatures adhering to rocks and boat hulls, can inspire engineering innovations that help ensure blood transfusion safety, purify water and clean up oil spills, according to research published on Wednesday.
Scientists in China and the United States said in an article published in the journal Matter that a mussel's hardy byssus threads, to which it owes its adhesive power of an amino acid group called DOPA, could tightly cling to the surface by performing multiple molecular interactions.
They found that DOPA and dopamine, a molecule structurally similar to DOPA, can adhere to all sorts of solid substrates. As a result, dopamine can be used as a universal coating in material surface engineering and environmental science.
"The robust attachment of mussels on substrates under water has inspired a biomimetic strategy to realize strong adhesion between materials in water," said Yang Haocheng, a researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in China, in a statement.
A group of scientists in China have developed a universal red blood cell, which can be accepted by individuals of every blood type. It works by using mussel-inspired coatings to shelter the cell from detection by the body's immune system.
Other research has succeeded in developing superior materials for separating oil and water, which could help to mitigate environmental damage to marine environments after oil spills.
Also, polymerized dopamine, a material inspired by mussels, is capable of removing heavy metals, organic pollutants and pathogens from wastewater. It can easily bind to contaminants with robust capture properties.
However, the realization of the polymerization of dopamine demands alkaline conditions, so it cannot be applied to materials that are unstable in alkaline conditions, Yang said.
Researchers are working to find low-cost, stable and safe substitutes, according to the article.