Questions and Answers

Why do Modern Glues Stick so Good and Fast

Various Glues Polymerisation

Photo by [jdurham] morgueFile

Any of you that may be reading this that have a few years behind your belt probably remember what glue used to be like when growing up. When I was a kid in school, we had either paste or elmers in the white squeeze bottle. Plus I think we had the little glue sticks for crafts and such.

But these days there is an abundance of Glues, Epoxies and Adhesives that have some unbelievable properties that allow them to cure almost instantly and the strength of their bond is almost unbreakable. So this raised a question for me, “Why do Modern Glues Stick so Good and Fast“?

So off to do my research I went, and of course I always share my findings with my loyal readers…

A Short History Lesson on Glues

So we’ll keep this short and to the point… Basically up until a century ago, most glues were either made from plant gum, or from animal hides and bones that had been boiled down.

These types of adhesives took a really long time to set or cure and once they did cure the bond they formed was pretty weak to be honest. Most glues back then were used primarily for woodworking and light weight work like crafts and sticking paper type objects together.

The glue would essentially soak into the pores of what ever material it was applied to and then dry, hopefully bonding the two pieces together.

The Super Glues of Today

As most of us know already, the glues and adhesives that we use today are leaps and bounds above the has beens of the past.

These super bonding agents are now made purely as a synthetic substance, they dry quickly and form extremely strong bonds between most any type of material. The fastest acting glues are known as superglues or instant glues. These monsters will set and be fully cured within seconds of application.

For projects that you need a little more time to work with before the glue sets, there are special two part epoxy resins you can use. These epoxy resins are sold in a package with two individually sealed containers. Each contains a separate ingredient that you must mix together in order for the adhesive to activate. Once the two ingredients are mixed you generally have between 10 and 30 minutes to work with your project before the bond takes place.

What is Superglue

Superglue is actually an acrylic resin that is made out of petroleum chemicals. When it becomes exposed to even the slightest bit of moisture, the tiny molecules will be joined together forming longer ones. This chemical process is known as polymerisation.

Packaged securely in it’s tube, superglue will remain in a liquid state and prevented from polymerising due to an acidic stabiliser that it’s mixed with. Once the superglue is applied to any surface, the slightest bit of moisture, that is present on nearly all surfaces, will cause the stabiliser to disperse and polymerisation begins.

The polymerisation process is triggered in the presence of water ions, which are nothing more than a group of atoms containing an electric charge. These ions can be found on nearly any surface that is exposed to air. Seeing how air will contain some amount of moisture, this makes perfect sense.

What to Do if You Get Stuck

I would be willing to bet anyone that has ever used superglue has gotten it on their hands or fingers at one time or another. I know I have… So should you panic?

Actually the easiest way to remove superglue from your hands or fingers is to run or soak them in warm water. Since the water molecules will cause the superglue to completely cure due to the polymerisation we talked about earlier, it makes it easier to remove the glue. Once submerged in warm water you should be able to peel the glue from your skin fairly easy.

Sometimes it takes a little work and I have been known to use fingernail polish remover, lighter fluid or even WD-40 and it works fairly well too. Although these chemicals could be abrassive to your skin unlike the warm water. So I would suggest trying the warm water first before moving on to the industrial grade corrosives…lol

Anyway, I hope this post has helped shed some light on why the modern glues stick so good and fast. Next time you’re using superglue, I bet you’ll be imagining that polymerisation process taking place.

Have any of you been stuck to something unique while using superglue? Please share in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Why do Modern Glues Stick so Good and Fast
    1. I hear ya Max…it’s that darn Super Glue that you’ve really got to look out for! 😀

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