Aug. 17, 2022 – A new adhesive bandage is being designed to stick twice as well to skin – even hairy parts – but hurt half as much to pull off. Scientists are tapping into the main ingredient in school glue to make this possible.
The problem that researchers from Pennsylvania universities set out to solve is how to make a wound dressing that sticks fast and strong yet can easily be removed without damaging skin or causing pain, especially if the skin area is soft or hairy.
Such a product would be especially important for children with head wounds 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’s been difficult to develop such a bandage. Most materials used in dressings either stick hard and fast but can’t easily be removed or pulled apart, or else they can be removed easily but aren’t strong enough to do the job of keeping a wound closed.
Reporting 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 are mixing a polymer called vinyl alcohol, a primary ingredient in the glue, with boric acid, a common and naturally occurring compound frequently used in antiseptics.
The boron atoms in the boric acid bond with the alcohol molecules in the polymer, creating a strong adhesive that can hold a wound together. But when the bandage is steeped in water for 30 seconds, the boron atoms detach from the alcohol molecules to bond instead with water molecules. At this point, the bandage can be pulled away without any pain or yanking out of hair follicles.
The adhesives stick better than most widely used skin adhesives in clinical medicine, report the researchers. But in the paper, they didn’t mention whether such versatile bandages could also come with superheroes or animated characters printed on them.