Common food items may be used to create strong bio-glues

6 Dec 2019

Image: © nanantachoke/

This week in future tech, scientists find a way to produce strong glue from the elemental components of a sandwich.

Researchers at Purdue University have found a way to create a more environmentally friendly glue from foods you might find in your cupboard. Publishing their findings to Advanced Sustainable Systems, they noted that almost all of the glues used in electronics and consumer products are derived from petroleum that is toxic to the environment.

To find an alternative, the researchers looked to natural items such as nuts, fruits and plants. All of these have similar chemistry to adhesives seen in shellfish so that they can stick onto rocks.

“We have created high-performance, tuneable adhesives that are non-toxic and degradable,” said Gudrun Schmidt, who led the research.

“We found that some combinations of zein protein and tannic acid could be reacted together in order to generate high-performance adhesives that could be alternatives to carcinogenic formaldehyde used in the glues that hold lots of furniture and other household items together. It would be a big health benefit if we could switch over to bio-based or even food-based adhesives.”

Other potential applications of the bio-glue, Schmidt said, include cardboard packaging, cosmetics and construction materials such as plywood.

UK EV and hybrid purchases surge in November

AutoCar reported that sales of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids now account for one in 10 new cars purchased in the UK. The figures released by the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said that more than 16,000 hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure EVs were registered in November, marking a 228pc increase on the same time last year.

However, it noted that the UK’s overall car market has dropped by 1.3pc compared with this time last year.

“These are challenging times for the UK new car market, with another fall in November reflecting the current climate of uncertainty. It’s good news, however, to see registrations of electrified cars surging again, and 2020 will see manufacturers introduce plenty of new, exciting models to give buyers even more choice,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of SMMT.

“Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go for these vehicles to become mainstream and, to grow uptake further, we need fiscal incentives, investment in charging infrastructure and a more confident consumer.”

Liquid crystal polymer moves when shone by a light

Drawing comparisons with Pavlov’s dog, researchers at Aalto University in Finland have revealed a liquid crystal polymer that can be trained to move and stick to an object of a given colour when guided by light.

The findings, published to Matter, build upon previous work that succeeded in conditioning a solid gel so that it melted to become liquid under light.

“At first, the liquid crystal polymer did not react to light at all, but during the process, it learned to move and grab objects under the guidance of light. The idea is the same as in the previous study, but now the conditioning includes tangible functions,” explained Prof Olli Ikkala.

According to Ikkala, new kinds of materials with the ability to ‘learn’ can be useful in soft robotics even though the functions are still limited at the moment.

Next, the researchers want to determine whether the materials can also be conditioned with completely independent signals, unlike now when a combination of heat and light is required.

IoT services to be worth almost $100bn by 2023

The marketplace for IoT services – including connectivity, software and devices – could generate as much as $96.3bn in sales by 2023, according to analytics firm GlobalData.

The Asia Pacific (APAC) IoT market will dominate much of these sales in software and services, however, growth from connectivity and devices will accelerate with the launch of more cellular IoT networks supported by 5G.

“If telcos want to remain relevant in the IoT marketplace, they need to evolve their service portfolios,” said Malcolm Rogers, senior technology analyst at GlobalData.

“Operators in APAC are keenly aware of the IoT opportunity and many, particularly in more advanced mobile markets, are forming IoT strategies to move beyond connectivity to provide additional services around platforms.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic