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UVa Professor Invents a New Packaging Adhesive

The University of Virginia is partnering with a Richmond based company, MeadWestvaco, to change the future of packaging adhesives.

Dr. Louis Bloomfield, a professor of physics at UVa, describes the material as being the "molecular equivalent of Velcro." The material bounces like a ball, stretches like silly putty, and sticks like glue but it's hard to describe exactly what it is.

"What I call it technically is, viscoelastic silicone rubber. It needs a good name. Alas, the great name "flubber" is already taken, but it's kind of a crazy material like flubber," Bloomfield said.

The rubber can be shaped into anything after it's baked. You can squish it, but it will always go back to its original shape.

Bloomfield says he got the idea from wanting to solve a simple problem that many are all too familiar with: How do you stop a four-legged table from rocking?

It took many years, but Bloomfield said he has finally perfected the goo.

"Finally, I got a material that is really good at doing that exact task. It perfectly fills gaps if your patient, but it supports like crazy if you're impatient and poke," Bloomfield said.

The new invention is now attracting the attention of the Richmond-based company, MeadWestvaco. They are looking into using the substance in all sorts of packaging in the future.

"What we are working on is developing a strange adhesive, a coating you can put on surfaces, just as thin as can be. When those two surfaces touch they grab onto each other firmly, but if you're patient and pull them apart they let go, and come apart without damage, so that you can do this hundreds of times," Bloomfield said.

He also said that a packaging adhesive is only the beginning for this material. "My hope is it will end up in your shoes, it'll end up on the handle of canes, and on the grips of underarm pieces of crutches," he said.

Bloomfield's list of uses for the material goes on and on. For right now, he is working closely with MeadWestvaco and said they hope to have a working prototype of the packaging closures finished by the end of the year.


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