Just How Strong Can a Glue Be?

Glue, more so than a hammer and nails, is one of the main components of any household DIY kit – or, at least, any hastily thrown-together repair box.

From superglue to PVC glue, spray adhesives to hot glue, there are almost as many different variations of this substance as there are practical uses.

One thing is universal among glue products, though – the promise of strong, unending hold.

Marketing

Adhesives are often made for a specific purpose and don’t need to be any stronger than the worst-case scenario within that particular need. Spray glues find regular use in arts and crafts and in minor furniture repairs.

art and craft

As they dry clear and can be repositioned for a short period of time, spray glues tend to be a more forgiving adhesive than superglues, which bond just about anything almost immediately.

For the sake of entertainment, let’s take the concept of glue to its logical extreme and see just how much it’s possible for an adhesive to hold. As far back as the early 1980s, advertisers and record-breakers have been trying to stick the heaviest and/or the most awkward objects they can find to other surfaces, usually in the shape of billboards and other inner-city exteriors.

A memorable example involves a car (and then two cars) in 1983 but a neat bit of trickery from recent times comes from insecticide company Orphea4D Protection, which turned a billboard into a giant glue trap to build an advertisement in macabre fashion – from dead insects. In good taste, maybe not – but it nevertheless demonstrates the occasional role of glues in high street marketing.

Showboating

The record for the heaviest thing held by an adhesive was actually broken in 2019. With just 3g of adhesive, a 17.5-ton truck was held for an hour at a factory in Germany. It might seem like an innocuous event in the grander scope of modern industry but the spectacle attracted more than 600 people, in addition to two politicians. Of course, The Guinness Book of Records’ own officials were present, too.

DIY enthusiast

This kind of ultra-glue isn’t available to purchase, and the stunt ultimately served as little more than a novel bit of showboating. In fact, it’s debatable whether glue of such great strength would ever find a place on the civilian market, largely due to the risks associated with all industrial-strength products. It’s also unlikely that the average DIY enthusiast will want to stick their car to a wall.

So, what are some more realistic numbers? A group of Portuguese researchers discovered that, on dry surfaces, the maximum strength of the glues tested was around 10-12MPa (Megapascals). While this number won’t mean much to many people, the fact that the amount of pressure glue can sustain is more than halved when applied to wet surfaces should give some indication as to why manufacturers recommend against doing this.

Translated into more familiar terms, superglues can hold around 30lbs, which is more than sufficient for repairs, model-making, and any general lifestyle needs around the house.

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