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MIT concocts the waterproof bandage

Millions of little rubber stumps hold this bandage on through wet conditions.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a bandage that won't come off until it dissolves.

The bandage consists of a "biorubber" substrate carved into microscopic pillars and valleys with the same sort of equipment used to make semiconductors. It is then coated with a sugar-based glue which helps the bandage hold on in wet environments.

The patterned adhesive bandages bond twice as strongly as un-patterned adhesives when tested on the intestinal tissue of pigs. On living rats, the MIT researchers found that the patterned bandages had 100 percent more adhesive strength even without the sugar-based glue.

Together, the patterning and the sugar-based glue open up the opportunity to develop bandages that can be placed on heart or lung tissue without falling off. Patients won't remove it. Instead, it will biodegrade over time. It's mostly for hospitals, but who knows? You may see these with Betty and Wilma on them someday in your medicine cabinet.

The pillars measure less than a micron in diameter and are 3 microns wide. A micron is a millionth of a meter. While that's big for today's chips, it's the size of a lot of components in medical devices. (Fluidigm, for instance, has created a chip that consists of tiny rubber hoses.) The pillars are spaced wide enough to grip and interlock with the underlying tissue. The team was "inspired" by how geckos climb.