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Wednesday, October 21, 1998 Published at 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK


Sci/Tech

Sticky moments in 21 years of Superglue

A tortoise with a cracked shell avoids a sticky end.

Twenty-one years after Superglue made its public debut, its makers claim it is practically holding the fabric of society together.


[ image:  ]
As well as chipped plates and shoe soles, the glue has been used on elephant tusks, human wounds, Formula One racing cars and even the Space Shuttle.

But its remarkable stickiness has also been responsible for a sometimes amusing, sometimes horrifying, catalogue of mishaps.

Sticky situations

  • In Peru, a wheelchair-bound man starved to death after he accidentally glued his teeth together.
  • A Sunderland man, suspected of breaking his bail curfew, glued himself to his girlfriend in an attempt to stop police arresting him.
  • A woman glued herself to her Algerian husband to prevent him from being deported.
  • And in Philidelphia, a gambler sued a casino for 30,500 after claiming he got stuck to a glue-smeared toilet seat and had to waddle through the casino for help.
  • Perhaps the most embarrassing visit to a casualty room caused by Superglue was the woman who needed her hands removed from her partner's private parts.

The glue is made of cyanocrylate which was first devised in 1942 in a search to make clear plastic gunsights in World War Two.


[ image: First known as Professor Kreible's magic gu]
First known as Professor Kreible's magic gu
It was developed by Professor Vernon Kreible of Trinity College Hartford, USA, in the 1950s and first captured the public imagination in a TV game show in 1958 when one drop was used to lift a man up off the floor.

Professor Kreible's glue, which was first known as "liquid locknut" and then Loctite, was put to more practical use on the age-old problem of loose nuts and bolts in machinery. He was soon crowned "the man who beat vibration".

The product's first big break came when the Caterpillar company secured the nuts on its tractors with it.


[ image: Superglue secures the McLaren car in 65 places]
Superglue secures the McLaren car in 65 places
Ford and Black and Decker followed suit and the glue is now used widely in the automotive and manufacturing industries.

McLaren's Formula One racing team is stuck on it. Superglue was used to lock threads, retain bearings, bond components and seal flanges in this year's car - 65 applications in all.

It was also used in the preparation of the Space Shuttle and on Thrust II, the world land speed-record breaking car.

Superglue in Surgery

Superglue has also proved to be a life-saver. During the Vietnam War soldiers were issued with tubes to seal stomach wounds in the battlefield.

A redefined formulation is now used to seal post-operative wounds worldwide.

It has also been used in veterinary care. A tortoise who cracked its shell after falling from a second floor window was successfully glued back together.

Racing pigeons have had their feathers superglued, fish have had their fins re-attached and horses have had their split hooves bonded together.





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