European Network investigates bioadhesives

The pelvic fins of the clingfish are modified to form a suction disc covered by nanoscale hairs, which are essential for generating the attachment on smooth to very rough surfaces
Images/Copyright: Stanislav N. Gorb

What do salamanders from the North American forests, glowworms from New Zealand, and pygmy squids from Thailand have in common? They all manufacture unique glues for attachment, prey capture or to camouflage and defend themselves. Within a new EU networking project, researchers from 30 countries aim to understand these and other bioadhesion phenomena under lab conditions. They would like to develop new biomimetic adhesives for biocompatible applications in medicine and industry like wound healing or tissue engineering. The interdisciplinary network combines biology, physics, chemistry and engineering and is coordinated by Professor Stanislav Gorb from Kiel University (CAU). It is financed by the European Initiative COST (Cooperation in Science and Technology) with 544.000 Euros for over four years (Project CA15216).

“Over millions of years, evolution had sufficient time to develop adhesives and nanostructures that work even under the toughest and most unpredictable conditions. Nature provides us with many examples of organisms which achieved seemingly impossible tasks”, explains Gorb from Institute of Zoology of CAU. These include insects that can walk upside down, the clingfish adhering to rough surfaces underwater, a worm that shoots sticky threads over long-distances for capturing prey, or a salamander defending itself against an attacking snake by sealing its mouth within seconds. The newly-established European Network of Bioadhesion Expertise (ENBA) is chaired by the professor of Functional Morphology and Biomechanics. He is supported by the second partner from Germany, Dr. Klaus Rischka from Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM) in Bremen. Scientific Representative is Dr. Janek von Byern from the University of Vienna and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Experimental and Clinical Traumatology.

Over the next four years, they aim to identify and characterize a wide range of bioadhesive systems, to evaluate bonding properties from macro- down to nano-scale from different perspectives and, in the long term, to design bioinspired artificial adhesives for applications in medicine and industry. “Within the ENBA” Gorb says “we will bring together experts from the different scientific fields and technical sectors with common interests. This project that is managed from Kiel and Vienna offers European researchers the best opportunity to form new partnerships which will help them to progress beyond basic research to translate their results into useful products.”

The first big event in this project will be held at the Natural History Museum in Vienna on the 6th and 7th of March. Scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs will discuss the diversity of bioadhesive systems and their bonding principles. The participants will demonstrate also to the publicity various adhesive animals and plants, as well as bio-inspired robots capable of climbing walls.

The European initiative COST (Cooperation in Science and Technology) funds transnational research networks since 1971. It is aimed at scientists from all disciplines to build networks about one topic on an European level. It is financed by the European framework programme for research Horizont 2020.

More information:


Professor Stanislav N. Gorb

Zoological Institute at Kiel University

Phone: +49 (0)431/880 -4513


Dr. Klaus Rischka

Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM)

Phone: 0421/2246-482


Dr. Janek von Byern

Core Facility für Cell Imaging und Ultrastrukturforschung Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Experimentelle und Klinische Traumatologie

University of Vienna

Phone: +43-1/4277-544 28