Superglue is part of our everyday life. When something breaks or cracks, we automatically reach for it, which is understandable, because it's a very practical solution that quickly fixes the problem. In this article, we'll show you what superglue is, how it works, and how to use it.
Superglue is a type of glue that utilises chemical principles. It polymerises and forms a stable bond between the surfaces, thanks to the moisture that reaches the material.
This type of adhesive can be used to bond materials such as leather, wood, rubber, and plastic. For example, there are superglues specifically for plastics and rubber, but there are also general-purpose solutions. They can be used well on small surfaces, but also larger ones.
Superglue was discovered as a by-product of the Second World War. In 1942, Dr Harry Coover and his team of researchers were trying to produce a new type of targeting equipment, when they created superglue by accident. It was almost 10 years later when Coover, now a researcher at Kodak Research Labs working with Fred Joyner, discovered the compound again. It finally hit the markets in 1958, changing repair practices with this state-of-the-art solution.
If you look at it from a chemical point of view, you can say that superglue is an acrylic resin. Its mechanism is based on a chemical reaction: polymerisation is triggered by hydroxide ions in the ambient moisture. This process is called anionic polymerisation.
Thanks to the fact that the cyanoacrylate monomers are linked by water and then the chains are linked as long as the polymer chain will allow, a durable and strong plastic mesh can be created. This plastic mesh is responsible for the extremely strong bond.
We can categorise superglues according to various criteria. These are presented below!
Not all superglues have the same consistency. Some superglues are very dilute and flow easily, some that are relatively thick, and some that are very thick. The thicker the adhesive, the more suitable it is for bonding vertical or near-vertical surfaces. If such a thick adhesive is used, it is always indicated on the packaging. Also, be prepared for these gel-like adhesives to be much harder to get out of the tube.
Medium-flow or relatively thick superglues are the most common, they are easy to work with but don't flow away quickly. Dilute versions can flow into small gaps, but are best used only on horizontal surfaces and may run on vertical surfaces. If you're dealing with a very runny glue, you may want to use a needle-nose dispenser to make sure you don't have any problems.
One important property of superglues is their gap-filling ability. Typically this ranges between 0.15 and 0.25 mm. However, there are also special fillers that can be used to extend the gap-filling capacity of the instant adhesive. In this case, the filler must first be pressed into the gap, which is too large, and then the superglue, which then holds the entire filling together and converts it into a very stable bond.
Superglues can withstand high temperatures up to a certain level. Generally speaking, they can withstand temperatures of 60-80 degrees Celsius. Of course, there are also special versions available. Some superglues can form the same bond between -55 and +90 degrees Celsius.
In this article, we mostly mention cyanoacrylate-based adhesives that bond when exposed to moisture. This bond is formed in a single minute and takes up to 60 minutes to achieve full effect. There are also instant adhesives that do not set as a result of moisture but as a result of some other effect, such as UV or visible light.
Superglue is a popular choice. It is very versatile: it can be used to repair and glue broken objects, but it is also used in forensic medicine for restoring fingerprints, and surgeons use special versions to seal wounds.
It has the characteristic of sticking to the skin very easily because the moisture on the surface of the skin triggers the bonding process in a matter of moments. It should be used with great care and attention, as it can, for example, clump the eyelids and eyelashes if it gets in the eyes. It is also recommended to ventilate during use, as the vapour that escapes from the material can irritate the nasal mucosa, the surface of the throat, the lungs, and the eyes.
Once the superglue has been carefully applied to the surface to be glued over a small area, the material begins to set, reaches the thickness of the layer, and forms a hard, brittle bond. This also means that if you are dealing with textiles or flexible materials, it is not enough to use a conventional superglue, you need a special solution. In some cases, it may also be necessary to use a primer. This step should not be skipped, especially where low surface energy and difficult-to-bond materials are involved. For example, polypropylene, polyethylene, and PTFE. The primer should be applied to these surfaces and will dry quickly, preparing the ground for the adhesive.
It is important to note that the superglue will also set in the tube over time due to humidity, so it is best to store it at a temperature of 2-8 degrees Celsius. However, many people don't follow this, so if you use it infrequently, choose a smaller container. During storage, care should also be taken to ensure that neither the cap nor the tube is damaged.
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