I remember as a child when velcro was introduced as a commercial product — there was that whole thrill of a new technology.
Now quite a few items of my clothing have very handy velcro strips. I love that I can just ‘rip’ open the hi visibility safety vest I wear while cycling, for example.
Over 60 years ago when the Swiss engineer and inventor George de Mestral was painstakingly removing burrs from his dog’s coat after a hunting excursion, he stumbled on an ingenious idea. Based on the model he had observed in nature, he constructed a fastener from numerous small hooks and loops, which he subsequently named “velcro.”
The problems with velcro though are that it melts easily and while it’ll keep my vest closed, it won’t hold heavy items.
Now researchers have found a way to make velcro from steel:
Hook and loop fasteners made of spring steel have now been developed at the Institute of Metal Forming and Casting of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen. These fasteners are resistant to chemicals and can withstand a tensile load of up to 35 tonnes per square meter at temperatures as high as 800°C.
It turns out it’s not actually as easy as just a hook and a loop. There are two styles of Metaklett: the Flamingo and the Duck’s Head, each with a different geometry and characteristics.
When I read the press release I’d hoped this would mean that perhaps parts of buildings would be ‘velcroed’ in place, but the applications they refer to sound much more mundane: air-conditioning and ventilation systems.
Still I feel that same sense of awe as when I first used Velcro.