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The stuff that holds it all together

Glue is an amazing substance that is present everywhere, and yet you rarely notice it. Man has been using adhesives to stick tools together for hundreds of thousands of years, but we’ve come a long way in both the effectiveness and aesthetics of modern glue.

A long journey

The earliest use of adhesives was discovered in central Italy, where stones stuck together with tar were found and dated to around 200,000 years ago. Since then, all sorts of materials have been used for glue, from beeswax to volcanic ash. In Europe, glues fell into disuse between 1500 and 1700, before cabinet makers rediscovered how useful the substance was for holding their products together.

Colour king

Today glue is used everywhere around you, from sticking wallpaper to your wall to holding the book you’re reading together. You can also find them in clothes and construction, with different applications needing different types and properties of glue. For example, in construction, where work is generally covered over in the end, the colour of the glue is less important. However, for clothes, books and decorations, the yellow, brown or beige of commonly used natural glues would ruin the looks of the final product. This is where one amazing chemicals comes into play – titanium dioxide.

Accomplished adhesive

Titanium dioxide is used widely in glues because it can whiten the final product, without changing the important chemical properties of the glue. This means it can be used in hot glues which would yellow other pigments – some adhesives are applied as hot as 400°C! It is also used to brighten the pigments that are used in coloured adhesives, for example a light green adhesive to glue down artificial lawn or red adhesive to glue tartan tracks.

Because titanium dioxide is able to brighten glues without affecting how they work it is the perfect pigment in this situation. So next time you notice a stray glue line in your book, think about how one chemical stops it from ruining your reading!

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