Glues and Superglues

science 11-21-10

Glue, like paste or cement, joins things together. These are known as adhesives because they make things adhere, or stick together. Stickiness, however, is not all that it takes.
In order for an adhesive to be practical, it must change from a soft liquid to a hard solid within a short period of time. Sticky substances such as honey, syrup, and chewing gum are not good adhesives because they take too long to harden.

If you were to look at any solid substance under a microscope, you would notice that even those we think of as perfectly smooth actually have bumps and spaces.
Suppose you are making a model that requires you to join two pieces of wood. You would apply the adhesive to one surface and place the other on top.

What the glue does is flow into all the little bumps and spaces of the two surfaces of wood. When it dries and hardens, it grips the two surfaces together.

Glue is made from the skin, bones, and tissues of animals and fish!

The secret ingredient in all the super glues on the market is Cyanoacrylate, an acrylic resin that bonds instantly. When the glue comes into contact with hydroxy 1 ions with water, it bonds. Cyanocrylate is the main ingredient in dozens of glues that are advertised as super glues or instant bonding glues. The Original Super Glue Corporation lists these glues under brand names that include Bondini, Pacer, Zap, and Pro Seal.

The term, “super glue fuming,” is related to the techinique that can be done at crime scene investigations. When cyanoacrylate, or any of the super glues, are heated in an air tight container, the cyanoacrylate evaporates and then reacts to traces of anything that has been left behind on surfaces. This technique has been useful for lifting finger prints in crime scene investigations. Current research efforts to imitate the natural adhesive found on the “feet” of mussels is underway. Mussels have a natural epoxy adhesive on their “feet” that is even stronger than the chemical version in super glue. The problem with using the natural epoxy glue from mussels is that it would take an endless supply of mussels to make even a small quantity for the use as a glue. Medical grade super glues have been used to close wounds instead of stitches, and the potential for larger surgery use is great. The invasiveness of stitches is eliminated when a super glue is used to cover an open wound area. Researchers are even looking into the possible use of super glue in sealing up larger internal wounds.  Super Glue has one enemy that can dissolve its bond. Acetone has the power to unglue and remove traces of super glues from surfaces, and even human skin. Acetone is commonly found in many household products. The most common form of acetone suggested for removing super glue from skin, or for unbonding use, is nail polish remover.

Keeping a bottle of nail polish remover in the house can be helpful for small accidental super bonding, but sometimes serious accidental bonding requires medical attention.

There are endless practical uses for super glues. Many household projects or repairs can benefit from the storng holding and bonding power of super glue. Broken china, knick-knacks, and loose paneling can all be fixed with a few drops of a super glue. The specialty variations of super glues include a super glue type for nearly any purpose. There are gel and wood project variations of the glue, and super glues for large appliances and household items.

Generic super glues can often be found at discount stores and the Dollar Store. These glues contain the same main ingredient of cyanacrylate, which will do the job and save a few dollars in most cases. It’s worth stocking a few small tubes or plastic containers of super glue for household emergencies. This wonder glue can work permanent miracles.Elsie the Cow became Borden’s very popular “Spokescow” in the late 1930’s. She was a big hit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and soon afterwards the character of Elmer the Bull was created as Elsie’s husband. In the late 1940’s, Borden’s new Chemical Division asked to use Elsie for its new white glue product. The thought of Elsie representing a non-food product didn’t seem appropriate, so as a compromise, Elmer was loaned to Chemical as their very own “spokesbull”. To this day, Elmer the Bull still represents the most recognized adhesive company.Elmer’s Glues are chemical based. They are made or formulated from chemicals which are synthesized (created by Man). These chemicals were originally obtained or manufactured from petroleum, natural gas and other raw materials found in Nature. The exact formula and specific ingredients used in making Elmer’s products are considered proprietary information, therefore, we cannot share those with you.Although there are many ingredients used to make glue, most formulas contain something called polymers. A polymer is a large molecule that often is described as being a long molecular strand, much like spaghetti. Some polymers are naturally “sticky” depending on how they are made. Others require certain ingredients called tackifiers to make them sticky. One of our many challenges here at Elmer’s is to be sure we have exactly the right balance of polymers and tackifiers to create a glue that is sticky and strong.


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