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Researchers Create Self-healing Coatings from Squid Ring Teeth Proteins

Published on 2019-04-17. Author : SpecialChem

TAGS:  Environmentally Friendly Coatings      Smart Coatings    

squid-protein-water Proteins found in squid can be used to create sustainable coatings, according to a report published in Frontiers in Chemistry on Thursday.

Squid grasp their prey using suction cups on their tentacles and arms. The cups are equipped with sharp "ring teeth" that hold the food in place. The teeth are made from proteins that are similar to silk, and these have become the subject of scientific interest in the last few years.

Prototypes of Coatings 

Melik Demirel, of Pennsylvania State University, is lead author of the new report, which reviews existing research on materials made from these proteins. He says his team has produced prototypes of fibers, coatings and 3D objects made from the squid ring teeth (SRT) proteins.

Demirel says these natural materials are biodegradable -- and could provide an "excellent" alternative to plastics.

The SRT proteins can be produced in the laboratory using genetically engineered bacteria, which means they don't need to use any squid. The process is based on fermentation, using sugar, water and oxygen.

Properties of SRT Proteins

According to the researchers, SRT proteins have "remarkable properties" and materials made from them are elastic, flexible and strong. They also have thermal and electricity conducting capabilities, and are self-healing. This gives the potential for some new applications.

One could be to create a self-healing, recyclable fabric by making a coating that is resistant to damage caused by washing machines. That could reduce the number of clothing microfibers that end up being washed into the oceans, which contributes to micro-plastic pollution.

SRT proteins could also be used to make protective clothing for chemical and biological warfare agents, say the researchers.

Scaling up Production

As well as polluting our oceans, plastics have been found to emit greenhouse gases when they degrade.

"I am a polymer scientist and want to minimize plastic pollution and create environmental sustainability,"
explains Demirel.

Demirel acknowledges that more work is needed to scale up production of the materials. Synthetic SRT proteins currently cost at least USD 100 a kg to produce, but he hopes to bring the price down to a tenth of that.

Source: Pennsylvania State University
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