Peer into a tide pool and you will see the impressive array of materials generated by marine biology. Mussels, barnacles, oysters, soft coral, and kelp all produce adhesives to stay in place. By sticking together in communities these organisms avoid capture by predators, decrease hydrodynamic forces to which they are subjected, and increase population densities for efficient reproduction. Despite the conspicuous presence on beaches, surprisingly little is known about the chemistry and engineering behind such marine biological materials.
Human technology cannot yet rival the properties of materials generated by these seemingly simple animals. Purchase any glue from a hardware store and try to bond two substrates together when underwater. Nothing will stick. Yet sea creatures accomplish such tasks daily. So far, only marine biology can offer the wet setting and strong bonding needed for surgical glues, dental adhesives, and bone cements.
Ongoing efforts in our group address three compelling questions:
- How does marine biology use chemistry to generate materials?
- Can we make synthetic polymer mimics of biological materials with similar properties?
- Will this knowledge allow us to make adhesives for industrial and biomedical applications?
1991: B.S. in Chemistry, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
1996: Ph.D. in Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1996-1999: Postdoc, California Institute of Technology
Jon grew up in the Boston area and was often taken to the beach by his parents. Now at Purdue, his research program focuses on materials produced by marine organisms. A particular emphasis is the adhesives and cements produced by mussels and oysters for sticking to rocks. Ongoing efforts include characterization of these marine biological materials, developing synthetic polymer mimics, and designing applications for these new materials. Projects are often inspired by what is seen while out scuba diving.