August 17, 2022 – A new adhesive bandage is designed to stick twice as much to the skin – even the hairy parts – but hurt twice as much to remove. Scientists are harnessing the main ingredient in school glue to make this possible.
The problem researchers at the Universities of Pennsylvania set out to solve was how to make a dressing that adheres quickly and securely while still being easily removable without damaging the skin or causing pain, especially if the skin is loose or hairy.
Such a product would be particularly important for children with head injuries or after surgery, but it would have a wide range of applications for other parts of the body and for adults as well.
Yet it has been difficult to develop such a dressing. Most materials used in dressings stick hard and quickly but cannot be easily removed or separated, or they can be removed easily but are not strong enough to hold a wound closed.
Report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers say they found their answer by tapping into the primary ingredient in school glue, of all things. They mix a polymer called vinyl alcohol, a main ingredient in glue, with boric acid, a common, natural compound frequently used in antiseptics.
Boron atoms in boric acid bind to alcohol molecules in the polymer, creating a strong adhesive that can hold a wound together. But when the bandage is soaked in water for 30 seconds, the boron atoms detach from the alcohol molecules to instead bond with water molecules. At this point, the bandage can be removed without pain or tearing of the hair follicles.
The adhesives adhere better than the most widely used skin adhesives in clinical medicine, the researchers report. But in the newspaper, they didn’t mention whether these versatile bandages could also come with superheroes or anime characters printed on them.