The byssus of the mussel allows it to live in harsh conditions where it is constantly battered by crashing waves by allowing the mussel to latch onto the seaside rocks. This particular characteristic of the mussel is due to the unique structure and high adhesiveness of the mussel’s byssus.
KAIST’s Professor Hong Soon Hyung (Department of Material Science and Engineering) and Professor Lee Hae Shin (Department of Chemistry) and the late Professor Park Tae Kwan (Department of Bio Engineering) were able to reproduce the mussel’s byssus using carbon nanotubes.
The carbon nanotube, since its discovery in 1991, was regarded as the next generation material due to its electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties. However due to its short length of several nanometers, its industrial use was limited.
The KAIST research team referred to the structure of the byssus of the mussel to solve this problem.
The byssus is composed of collagen fibers and Mefp-1 protein which are in a cross-linking structure. The Mefp-1 protein has catecholamine that allows it to bind strongly with the collagen fiber.
In the artificial structure, the carbon nanotube took on the role of the collagen fibers and the macromolecular adhesive took on the role of the catecholamine. The result was a fiber that was ultra-light and ultra-strong.
The results of the experiment were published in the Advanced Materials magazine and is patent registered both domestically and internationally.