Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne How Does Glue Work?
Name: Jackson
Status: student
Grade: 6-8
Location: NY

How can glue stick things together?


There are many variants of glue and there are some slight differences in the details of how they work, so I will just talk about how glues work in general. The first requirement is that glues must be able to creep or flow into the crevices of the two objects that are being attached together. At the microscopic level, even surfaces that appear smooth will, in general, be very rough - full of mountains and valleys and crevices. The glue has to be able to seep into these crevices. The second requirement is that the glue must be able to change its molecular structure so that it changes from a fluid to a solid - it must harden. There are many ways this can be achieved. Reaction with atmospheric oxygen, addition of a cross-linker, thermosetting (hardening due to an application of heat), etc. All of these processes have the result of making the glue harden or cure.

So, what we can imagine then, is that the glue, as a fluid will seep into the microscopic cracks and crevices of the two objects that are being attached together. Then, through some predetermined mechanism, the glue hardens or cures. The result is that the parts of the glue that have seeped into the objects at the microscopic level are like anchors and hold onto the objects. The hardening prevents those anchors from getting dislodged and also makes the glue a hard object to break.

Greg (Roberto Gregorius)

Click here to return to the Material Science Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory