History of Adhesives
The dictionary defines an adhesive as "a substance capable of holding materials together by surface attachment." This is a simple definition for a material that is the basis for a multi-billion dollar industry with more that 750 companies competing for a share of the market. It is estimated that 50 of those companies are responsible for 50% of the sales dollars in the adhesive industry.
The first evidence of a substance being used as an adhesive dates back to 4000 B.C. Archaeologists studying burial sites of pre-historic tribes found foodstuffs buried with the deceased in broken pottery vessels that had been repaired with sticky resins from tree sap. Archaeologists have also uncovered statues from Babylonian temples that have ivory eyeballs glued into eye sockets. This tar like glue has held for almost 6000 years.
The first references in litreature concerning glue and the art of glue appears about the year 2000 B.C. Simple procedures for making and using animal glue were written.
The period of time between 1500-1000 B.C. gave further proof that glue had become a method of assembly. Paintings and murals showed details of wood gluing operations. A casket removed from the tomb of King Tut shows the use of glue in its construction. Our museums today contain many art objects and furnishings from the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs that are bonded or laminated with some type of animal glue.
The next period of activity is from 1-500 A.D. when the Romans and Greeks developed the art of veneering and marquetry, which is the bonding of thin sections or layers of wood. From this art, the making of animal and fish glues were refined and other types of adhesives were developed, such as an adhesive from egg whites to bond gold leaf. In addition to egg whites, other natural ingredients were used to prepare glue such as blood, bones, hide, milk, cheese, vegetables and grains. The Romans were one of the first to use tar and beeswax to caulk the planking in boats and ships.
A study of history shows the use of glue fell into disuse until about 1500-1700 A.D. when adhesives were used in the building of furniture. Some of the greatest furniture and cabinet makers of all times used adhesives in their products--names still recognized today like Chippendale and Duncan Phyfe.
Another notable name in history who may owe his notoriety, at least in part to adhesives: about the year 1000 A.D. Genghis Khan overcame all attackers because of the exceptional power and range of the weaponry his men carried. Bows were made from laminated lemon wood and bullhorn bonded with an adhesive whose formula has been lost in antiquity.
The secret of violins made by Antonio Stradivari was the adhesive process used to laminate his specially treated woods. His methods have also been lost in antiquity, and have not been rediscovered even with today´s sophisticated analytical methods.
In about 1700, the widespread use of glue brought about some rapid changes in the history of adhesive. The first commercial glue factory was started in Holland to manufacture animal glue from hides.
About 1750, the first glue patent was issued in Britain for a fish glue. Patents were then rapidly issued for adhesives using natural rubber, animal bones, fish, starch, milk protein (casein). By 1900, the U.S. had a number of factories producing glue from the aforementioned bases.
The Industrial Revolution caused an explosion in technical breakthroughs which resulted in new materials becoming available for use in formulating adhesives. The first plastic polymer to be synthesized was cellulose nitrate, a thermoplastic material derived from the cellulose of wood. Its first use was in the manufacture of billiard balls, which had been made of ivory. The era of plastics began with the introduction of Bakelite phenolic, a thermoset plastic, in 1910. Within a year, adhesives using phenolic resin were put on the market. The 1920´s, 30´s and 40´s saw many new plastics and rubbers synthetically produced, many out--of an urgent necessity--developed during World War II. Although adhesives have been known for about 6000 years, most of the technology of adhesives has been developed during the last 100 years.
The development of plastics and elastomers has rapidly advanced the development of adhesives and has given formulators a wide variety of products that can change and improve various properties of adhesives such as flexibility, toughness, curing or setting time, temperature and chemical resistance.