A bacterium that lives in rivers, streams and human aqueducts uses nature’s strongest glue to stay in one place, according to new research by Indiana University Bloomington and Brown University scientists reported in next week’s (April 11) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The scientists found they had to apply a force of about 1 micronewton to remove a single Caulobacter crescentus from a glass pipette. Because C. crescentus is so small, the pulling force of 1 micronewton generates a huge stress of 70 newtons per square millimeter. That stress, which the bacterial adhesions could sometimes withstand, is equivalent to five tons per square inch — three or four cars balanced atop a quarter. By contrast, commercial “super” glue breaks when a shear force of 18 to 28 newtons per square millimeter is applied.