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Sunday, April 14, 2024

How World War II led to the invention of super glue

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Ah, super glue — the greatest-of-all-time fast-acting adhesive for all of your stuck-together needs.

Chances are, you have a tube of this in that kitchen drawer, you know, the one with all the takeout menus, rubber bands and random keys to who knows what doors (you should probably clean that out by the way), because it’s an undeniable necessity.

But before it occupied space in our junk drawers, and our hearts, it was accidentally developed for the U.S. military.

Too sticky for Army weapons

In 1942, companies across the country were looking to support the war effort, including the Eastman Kodak Company. One if its inventors, Dr. Harry Wesley Coover, accidentally created a new compound while attempting to make clear plastic gun sights for Allied soldiers.

The compound, cyanoacrylate, was incredibly durable but way too sticky to use. (Imagine getting Krazy Glue anywhere near your eye. No thanks!) So Coover and his team abandoned the substance, not wanting to get stuck, literally or figuratively, on it.

Over a decade later, Coover, who would become known as “Mr. Super Glue,” rediscovered the adhesive compound while researching heat-resistant polymers for jet canopies. Cyanoacrylate adhesives required no heat or pressure to stick items together and hold them permanently. Thus, in 1956, the patent for “Alcohol-Catalyzed Cyanoacrylate Adhesive Compositions/Superglue” was born. How’s that for a name?

Coover and the Eastman team took the patent and repackaged it for commercial sale as “Eastman 910″ – which was later changed to “Super Glue.” This name stuck and still is used for a number of similarly adhesive products today.

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