What Makes Super Glue So Strong?

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It’s not uncommon to find yourself in a situation where you need to use super glue.

Super glue gets its name because a 1-square-inch bond can hold more than a ton. So, what makes it so strong?

The main ingredient in super glue is cyanoacrylate (C5H5NO2). Cyanoacrylate is an acrylic resin that bonds almost instantly when it comes into contact with water. Virtually any object you might wish to glue will have at least trace amounts of water on its surface, so this is a convenient trigger. Air also contains water in the form of humidity.

White glues, such as Elmer’s, bond by solvent evaporation. The solvent in Elmer’s all-purpose school glue is water. When the water evaporates, the polyvinylacetate latex that has spread into a material’s crevices forms a flexible bond. Super glue, on the other hand, undergoes a process called anionic polymerization, which produces a certain amount of heat. If a large amount of super glue makes contact with your skin, it can cause burns.

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While super glue will fix your broken coffee cup forever, it could also bond your fingers to it.

Cyanoacrylate molecules start linking up when they come into contact with water, forming a durable plastic mesh. The glue thickens and hardens until the molecular strands can no longer move.

How to Remove Super Glue from Skin

If you accidentally glue your fingers together, here’s what to do:

  1. Photos_Alyson/Stonet/Getty Images
    Scrape off any excess glue. Don’t use cloth or tissue — a chemical reaction between the fabric and glue could cause burns or smoke.
  2. Soak the bonded fingers in a bath of warm, soapy water.
  3. Don’t try to force the fingers apart, or you’ll tear the skin.
  4. After soaking, use a dull, rounded utensil to carefully wedge the fingers apart.
  5. If the above steps don’t work, apply a little acetone (found in nail polish remover) to the area. Then try to wedge the digits apart.

Although it may seem unlikely, some people have accidentally glued their mouths shut. If this happens, try to carefully separate your lips with a dull object. If this doesn’t work, seek medical attention.

The following steps should be followed in order to remove bonded skin from the mouth area without causing any harm. First of all, avoid using acetone since it can be harmful in that area. Instead, immerse your mouth in hot water using a wide coffee cup or bowl. You should also try to dampen the bonded skin from the inside of your mouth as much as possible. Once you feel that the grip is loosening, carefully wedge your mouth open with a dull, rounded utensil. Do not force it as it can tear the skin. Interestingly, cyanoacrylate, which is commonly known as super glue, can also be used to close wounds instead of stitches. Researchers have discovered that by changing the type of alcohol used in super glue, it can become less toxic to tissue. This technique is not only used by physicians but also by veterinarians. For more information, visit the related HowStuffWorks articles listed in the

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section or check out the

  • This-to-That Glue Guide
  • ScienceDaily: Seafood Into “Super Glue”

for more great links.


1. What is super glue made of?

Super glue, also known as cyanoacrylate adhesive, is made of a chemical compound called cyanoacrylate. This compound is derived from ethyl cyanoacrylate, which is a type of acrylic resin. When cyanoacrylate comes into contact with moisture, it rapidly polymerizes and forms a strong bond. This is why it is important to keep the cap tightly sealed and to avoid getting any moisture on the glue.

2. How strong is super glue?

Super glue is incredibly strong and can create a bond that is difficult to break. It can withstand temperatures ranging from -65 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit and can hold up to 1,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. However, its strength can be affected by the type of surface it is being applied to, as well as the amount of glue used.

3. What are the best surfaces to use super glue on?

Super glue is best used on smooth, non-porous surfaces such as metal, plastic, and glass. It is not recommended for use on fabrics, paper, or other porous materials as it can seep through and create a messy bond. It is also important to note that super glue can damage certain types of materials, such as foam and rubber.

4. How long does it take for super glue to dry?

Super glue dries very quickly, typically in less than 30 seconds. However, it may take several hours for the bond to reach its maximum strength. It is important to avoid moving the bonded materials during this time as it can weaken the bond.

5. How can super glue be removed?

If super glue is accidentally applied to the wrong surface or if the bond needs to be removed, there are a few methods that can be used. Acetone, which is found in nail polish remover, can dissolve super glue. Sandpaper can also be used to gently sand away the glue. It is important to be cautious when using these methods and to avoid damaging the surface underneath.

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