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The sticky truth about adhesive tape

Adhesive tape is a tape that is coated with adhesive either on one side or both, and used for temporarily or permanently joining two overlapping materials. Adhesive tape is something we all use in our daily lives. It serves a number of purposes. Its convenience makes it virtually indispensable in our homes and while at work. If for example, you accidentally tear an important document at work, you reach for an adhesive tape to fix it in a jiffy. Though this invention has become indispensable in our lives, have you ever thought about what is the science behind this invention?

History of adhesive tape

Natural adhesives like beeswax, resin and bitumen have been used for a long time. The ancient Egyptians used glue made from animal skin and bones for woodworking. Medieval monks used egg white to bind gold leaves to their illuminated manuscripts. The 19th century saw the advent of rubber and pyroxylin cements.

Adhesive tape was invented in 1925 by American inventor Richard Drew.

Who invented adhesive tape?

Adhesive tape was invented in 1925 by American inventor Richard Drew. He used cellophane paper to create a tape with a sticky surface. He invented this tape originally for industrial purposes, but this invention proved very useful for packaging as well. This tape was originally called ‘cellophane tape’ owing to the material it was made from.

Different types of adhesive tape

Did you think that there was only one kind of adhesive tape? You are quite mistaken. The different kinds of adhesive tape include sticky tape that is transparent, gaffer tape that is thicker fabric or plastic tape, brown duck tape that is used for sealing cartons, masking tape that is used to cover areas that paint must not fall on etc. There is also electrical tape that is made of materials like vinyl which are bad conductors of electricity. Surgical tape is an adhesive bandage used to hold a dressing on a wound.

How adhesive tape works

Adhesive tapes work on the basis of pressure sensitive adhesives. These are soft polymer blends that stick to a surface using Van der Waals force, when you lightly apply pressure. This is the attractive and repulsive forces that occur between the atoms, molecules and surfaces of an object.

There are many layers in an adhesive tape. These are the release coating, the primer and the adhesive.

Backing materials used for adhesive tape are paper, polyethylene or vinyl. The release coating is the substance that ensures that the tape does not stick on itself. How else can you have a roll of adhesive tape? The common substance used is polyvinyl carbamate; the other side is the primer which attaches the tape to the backing. The adhesive used in these tapes are a polymer, the most common being water-based acrylics. Other substances are added to increase the stickiness of the tape.

Uses of adhesive tape

The primary use of adhesive tape is packaging. The materials from which adhesive tapes are made today are cellophane, acrylic, fiberglass, silicone, foil, rubber and paper, depending on the strength required. Adhesive tapes are available in different sizes and also in a standardized size to fit tape dispensers. In the construction industry, tape is widely used since tape covers and reaches areas which glue neglects.


Adhesive tape is widely used in our homes as well. For example you can stick tape to the feet of your chair so that it does not scratch the floor when you drag it across the room. Children also use adhesive tape while doing projects for their craft class.

Tags :     Everyday Chemistry     Adhesive Tapes     Polymer     Rubber     Ancient Egyptians    


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