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Biofouling. 2013;29(6):735-49. doi: 10.1080/08927014.2013.800863.

Mini-review: barnacle adhesives and adhesion.

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Department of Biotechnology, National Institute of Technology and Evaluation, Kisarazu, Japan.


Barnacles are intriguing, not only with respect to their importance as fouling organisms, but also in terms of the mechanism of underwater adhesion, which provides a platform for biomimetic and bioinspired research. These aspects have prompted questions regarding how adult barnacles attach to surfaces under water. The multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary nature of the studies makes an overview covering all aspects challenging. This mini-review, therefore, attempts to bring together aspects of the adhesion of adult barnacles by looking at the achievements of research focused on both fouling and adhesion. Biological and biochemical studies, which have been motivated mainly by understanding the nature of the adhesion, indicate that the molecular characteristics of barnacle adhesive are unique. However, it is apparent from recent advances in molecular techniques that much remains undiscovered regarding the complex event of underwater attachment. Barnacles attached to silicone-based elastomeric coatings have been studied widely, particularly with respect to fouling-release technology. The fact that barnacles fail to attach tenaciously to silicone coatings, combined with the fact that the mode of attachment to these substrata is different to that for most other materials, indicates that knowledge about the natural mechanism of barnacle attachment is still incomplete. Further research on barnacles will enable a more comprehensive understanding of both the process of attachment and the adhesives used. Results from such studies will have a strong impact on technology aimed at fouling prevention as well as adhesion science and engineering.

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