Science-- there's something for everyone

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Serendipity results in new type of tape

Every once in a while, a new discovery is made by accident (think Teflon). Researchers from Oregon State University may have added to that tradition. They set out to create an adhesive made from wood that would melt at high temperatures, but instead created a new vegetable oil-based pressure-sensitive adhesive.

Hot-melt adhesives are commonly used in glue guns. The adhesive is solid at room temperature, but liquid and sticky when heated. Unlike other types of adhesive, no chemicals are required to cure the glue.

In contrast, pressure-sensitive adhesives do not require heat or any chemical curing process. Instead, the glue adheres to a surface because of light pressure applied to it. Although they can be permanent, often pressure-sensitive adhesives are used for removable items, like sticky notes.

Kaichang Li and his team were attempting to make a hot-melt composite adhesive out of wood and vegetable oils. Although that attempt failed, the team noticed that they had created a very sticky resin which proved perfect for gluing together sheets of paper.

As Li’s commented:

This adhesive is incredibly simple to make, doesn't use any organic solvents or toxic chemicals, and is based on vegetable oils that would be completely renewable, not petrochemicals. It should be about half the cost of existing technologies and appears to work just as well.

The new adhesive is expected to be useful for everything from duct tape to postage stamps.