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Smart polyurethane pressure-sensitive adhesive with controlled tack

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Disposable products
Coatings and adhesives manufactures
Industrial chemicals
Packing products and systems
Scientific research and development
Tertiary education


A Spanish university has developed an innovative polyurethane pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) with a controllable degree of stickiness ("tack"). This tack can be abruptly changed within specific short ranges of temperature. This PSA, which is potentially biocompatible, has excellent properties for use in medical applications and in other applications, such as labelling in the transport of goods or refrigerated food. Companies interested in licensing/technical cooperation agreements are sought.



Pressure sensitive adhesives (PSAs) have a wide presence in the market, being widely used in different applications such as adhesive tapes, labels or repositionable adhesives in the food, pharmaceutical, security packaging and automotive industries. They are also commonly applied for medical purposes as they are ideal for their ease of application and adhesion to the skin.

There are different types of PSAs depending on their composition and manufacturing process: polyurethane based PSAs, acrylic PSAs, polysiloxane based PSAs, polysiloxane based PSAs, polyisobutylene based PSAs, etc.

Polyurethane based PSAs are more hydrophilic than the rest of PSAs and are biocompatible with the skin so they are preferable for medical applications. However, they present an important disadvantage as they have an inherent low tack and low peel adhesion.

In this sense, a Spanish research group has developed a process for producing a new family of PSAs based on thermoplastic polyurethanes. The new formulation has managed to solve the main drawbacks of the polyurethane PSA, i.e., its low tack at room temperature, obtaining optimum adhesion properties, without sacrificing its cohesion.

The adhesive is synthesized by the reaction of isocyanates and polyols. By controlling the synthesis, a good balance between tack, adhesion and cohesion can be achieved. The main characteristic of these adhesives is that by slightly varying the composition and synthesis conditions, specific adhesives are obtained with specific tack ratings that operate in short temperature ranges. As an example, several formulations have been optimized for specific applications in the following temperature ranges:

• Between 10ºC and 39ºC, focusing on an optimal point of adhesion at 37ºC. At temperatures below 25º its adhesion capacity drops considerably. This adhesive is ideal for use in medical and skin contact applications.

• Between 5ºC and 20ºC. This adhesive is ideal for special applications such as labelling for the transport of goods at room temperature (fresh food, beverages, etc.).

• Between -10ºC and 5ºC. This adhesive also focuses on specific applications such as labelling for the transport of refrigerated goods.

The production process has been carried out satisfactorily at laboratory level where the combination of its components and the synthesis processes have been optimised. The different adhesives obtained have been characterized and their applicability has been validated in different uses, such as biomedical or low temperature conditions.

These PSAs can be applied in the following sectors:

• Biomedical: Body temperature conditions are very stable. A number of polyurethane PSAs have been developed that operate only in these temperature ranges. This has a great applicability for example in the fixation of bandages on the skin. In addition, by slightly varying the temperature, the tack can be eliminated, avoiding patients the usual discomfort of removing the bandages.

• Labelling: There are containers and packages in all types of industries and these must be labelled and wrapped for proper treatment. Sometimes these packages must operate in very specific temperature conditions. This technology makes it possible to define optimum tack in very specific short temperature range, outside of which adhesive tack is considerably reduced. Good label condition can be a good indicator that the package has maintained the preset temperature conditions over time. It can also be useful for removing labels from products once they have fulfilled their function since they can be easily detached by slightly varying the temperature of the label.

The Spanish university looks for companies in the biomedical or labelling sector interested in patent licensing or technical cooperation agreements to scale up this process or to jointly develop R&D projects to look for new applications for these adhesives or adapt them to the necessities of the company.

Advantages & innovations

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The most important advantages of the developed polyurethane PSAs are the following: • It is not needed to add tackifier during the production process, providing them excellent conditions for medical use. • They have a permanent stickiness when applying a light pressure with the fingers. It does not require activation for its application, it maintains the joint to the substrate in time and leaves no residue upon removal. • They are more hydrophilic and biocompatible than other PSA adhesives. In fact, they show a good skin tolerance. • They have good tack at room temperature and optimum adhesion properties without sacrificing its cohesion. • Their adhesion degree can be modified in a wide range of values by changing their segmented structure, being always completely transparent. • By varying the synthesis process, the tack can be controlled on demand by customizing the temperature ranges in which the adhesive is active. • Adhesion can be easily removed by slight variation of the temperature. Innovative aspects: Thermoplastic polyurethane PSAs have many advantages for application in industry or the biomedical sector, but their main disadvantage is their low tack and limited peel adhesion. The work of this Spanish university has made possible to overcome these weaknesses and to develop a procedure to obtain a family of adhesives with high tack and good peel strength in specific temperature ranges only, decreasing considerably when these limits are exceeded. This allows to obtain a smart adhesive that can be adapted to the needs of the client's application, customizing the degree of stickiness and the temperature ranges in which it is active. The new PSAs do not contain solvents and they can be applied on the carrier at moderate temperatures (lower than 120 ºC).

Stage of development

Cooperation stage dev stage: 
Under development/lab tested

Partner sought

Cooperation area: 
- Type of partner sought: Companies - Specific area of activity of the partner: Biomedical; Labelling. - Task to be performed: To help scale the adhesive production process from laboratory to industry level; jointly development of new applications for the adhesives; jointly development to adapt the adhesive to their specific needs.

Type and size

Cooperation task: 
SME 11-50,SME <10,>500 MNE,251-500,SME 51-250,>500