If you’ve ever found your fingers unintentionally bonded together after using an especially strong glue, you’ll appreciate the latest innovation from researchers at the Max Planck Institute. They’ve succeeded in creating an adhesive that can be turned on and off as needed—perfect for wannabe Martha Stewarts who suck at crafts.
The glue the researchers created isn’t quite the same as the white stuff that oozes out of a bottle, or the clear stuff that comes out of a stick. It’s made from a metal called Gallium that transitions from a solid to a liquid at around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. By heating and cooling the metal, it will stuck and unstick to countless surfaces.
It’s not unlike hot glue, except the Gallium-based adhesive melts with far less heat, so it’s easier to work with. When cooled, it also unsticks without any damage to the surface it was adhered to, and leaves no residue behind. The glue even works on damp surfaces and underwater, with some reduction in sticking power, but still enough to be useful for countless applications.
The glue’s creators don’t quite envision it as a replacement for making popsicle stick picture frames, though. It could be used on industrial pick and place robots in lieu of suction cups which can damage or leave marks on products, or when it comes to the automated handling of delicate objects like paper documents coming out of a printer. It could even be used in surgery for temporarily securing organs since it sticks so well to wet surfaces. And of course, let’s not forget we’re now one step closer to everyone getting Spider-Man’s awesome wall-sticking powers.