Underwater smart glue from Michigan Technological University is made of a catechol-containing material that can unstick using an electric current.


  • Reversible
  • Versatile
  • Controllable


  • Medical treatment
  • Medical implants

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Current smart glue technologies use pH changes in solution to stick and unstick. Due to the monitoring and maintenance required, it costs more to control and objects cannot “unstick” without human intervention.

Innovation Details

The underwater smart glue uses an electrical current to turn off the adhesion of a catechol-containing material. Catechol is a synthetic that is able to bind to wet surfaces and mimics the protein that mussels use to attach to rocks underwater. The use of electrical currents to deactivate the adhesion means the process could one day be controlled with the press of a button.

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Biological Model

Marine mussels have fibers known as byssal threads that can attach to a variety of surfaces underwater. These fibers stick to the rock with a mussel-produced adhesive comparable in strength to human-made glues but without carcinogens, such as formaldehyde. The mussel glue can also cure under water.