Superglue © Getty Images

How does super glue work?

Is there nothing stickier than the most super of glues?

The inventor of super glue, Harry Coover, has died aged 94. He discovered the glue accidently while working for Eastman Kodak lab in New York.

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Coover was attempting to develop a clear plastic to be used in provision gunsights for soldiers. He had been working with cyanoacrylate, but found the stickiness too difficult to use.

A few years later, Coover developed the potential of the chemical as a glue and it was used as a spray to seal wounds in the Vietnam War.

How does super glue work and what makes it so sticky? After all, just one square inch of the stuff can hold over a ton.

How super glue works

  • The main ingredient in super glue is a chemical called cyanoacrylate, an acrylic resin that forms a bond (cures) almost instantly
  • The only trigger it requires are the hydroxyl ions found in water
  • Traces of water are found on almost everything and in the surrounding air, which causes the glue to become sticky
  • It works best in moist conditions, although it is not advised to start gluing on a soaking wet surface

Super glue fighting crime?

  • Cyanoacrylate also has another purpose when it’s not busy sticking; it has become a priceless tool in law enforcement
  • Warming cyanoacrylate releases fumes that can bring up fingerprints on smooth surfaces
  • The seemingly invisible fingerprints react with the fumes, creating a soft white polymer and allowing fingerprints to be seen

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