Daniel Porter
Aug 24, 2012

Sticking the non-sticky

The question seems almost philosophical: how do they get non-stick Teflon coating to stick to metal pans? At Kiel University in Germany, researchers are tackling a harder problem: how do you stick Teflon to silicone, a similarly non-sticky material. Both materials are "low-surface-energy" polymers, meaning that both exhibit very low adhesion -- it's hard to make stuff stick to them. To overcome this difficulty, the researchers have resorted to micro- and nanoscale "staples" to fasten these two supposedly unfastenable materials. These tetrapod staples are made of zinc, shaped like four-pronged jacks. The researchers add the staples at the interface between the two materials, firmly gripping and holding together both of these materials by becoming embedded in both. “If the nano staples make even extreme polymers like Teflon and silicone stick to each other, they can join all kinds of other plastic materials”, says Professor Rainer Adelung, lead researcher of the nano materials group.