Thursday, September 10, 2009


Velcro, the name brand hook-and-loop fastener, was invented way back in 1941 when Swiss engineer George de Mestral (1907-1990) became curious about the burrs that stuck to his dog's fur and looked at them under a microscope. It took him 10 years to perfect the "zipperless zipper," a reversible binding that is usually made of nylon or polyester. The word "velcro" has become generic, even though it is still a registered trademark. In addition to being used on clothing, it has been used in artificial heart surgery, nuclear power plants, and the space shuttle. A square 2" x 2" can hold 175 lbs. More recently, a sliding engaging fastener was designed that is 8 times stronger and makes no noise when it is disengaged. But even that has recently been improved. A square meter of a new steel version called Metaklett can hold 35 tons! The original Velcro, though, is cited as the only commercial success until recently in the field of biomimetics - the application of methods and systems found in nature to engineering and technology. For other examples of technology inspired by animals, click here.

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