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Sticky Stories: The Making of Super Glue

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Written by: Jeremy Sanchez


Sticky Stories: The Making of Super Glue

Every household has probably relied on the magical powers of super glue at least once. 

Whether it’s a broken vase or a pair of glasses, this adhesive marvel ensures everything stays together. 

But have you ever stopped and wondered how this tiny tube of powerful adhesive is made? Let’s dive deep into the world of super glue, unveiling its secrets.

Quick Glance at the Glue World

  • Super glue’s scientific name is cyanoacrylate.
  • It is a fast-acting adhesive.
  • Created by accident while attempting to design precision gun sights during World War II.

The Super Formation: Creating Super Glue

Super glue, or cyanoacrylate, is a fascinating product that comes to life through a series of chemical reactions. 

Here’s a detailed explanation of its creation:

  1. Initiation: The process begins with raw materials like formaldehyde and cyanoacetate. These ingredients undergo a chemical reaction in the presence of a catalyst to produce alpha-cyanoacrylate monomers.
  1. Polymerization: To prevent premature polymerization (or hardening) of the monomers, stabilizers are added. The monomers are kept in their liquid form to facilitate further processing.
  1. Distillation: The liquid mixture is then distilled to remove any impurities or unwanted elements.
  1. Blending: Once distilled, plasticizers and thickeners are blended into the mixture. This step ensures that the finished product retains the desired viscosity and texture.
  1. Bottling: The final product is then carefully bottled under controlled conditions to avoid any contamination. Since cyanoacrylate is extremely reactive to moisture, the bottling environment is kept as moisture-free as possible.

Fun Tidbits: Did You Know?

  • Oops Moment: Super glue was discovered accidentally not once, but twice! Dr. Harry Coover first stumbled upon it while searching for materials to make clear plastic gun sights during WWII, only to rediscover its adhesive properties a few years later.
  • Speedy Fix: Super glue can bond materials in as quick as 5 seconds. Its rapid bonding is due to its reaction with the moisture present in the air and on the bonding surfaces.
  • Medical Marvel: Super glue has been utilized for medical purposes, especially in closing wounds during surgeries.
  • Space-age Solution: During the 1967 outer space rendezvous of the Gemini and Apollo spacecrafts, super glue was the chosen solution for sealing a hatch door.

Holding it Together: A Sticky Conclusion

Super glue, with its impressive adhesive properties and fascinating history, is a testament to human innovation. 

Beyond the tube, there’s an intricate process and a plethora of fun facts that make this adhesive even more super. 

The next time you patch something up with super glue, you’ll now know the captivating journey it took to get to your hands. Keep bonding, and let’s stick together!

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