The saying “necessity is the mother of invention” doesn’t really hold any water when it comes to the accidental inventions that are extremely useful in our lives.
The idea of the first nonstick technology came up during research on another modern kitchen staple — the refrigerator. Scientists at the Kinetic Chemicals plant (a subsidiary of DuPont) were searching for a less toxic chemical to use as a new refrigerant but mistakenly created an exceptionally slippery substance.
Roy Plunkett, one of the scientists on the team, set up a mixture that was meant to produce Tetrafluoroethylene gas and left it overnight. The next morning, he arrived to work and found a white, waxy substance in place of the gas he had expected. Analysis of the chemical revealed that the new substance was actually Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Having said that, this was not a direct lead towards non-stick pans until Marc Gregoire, a French Engineer, found a way to bond PTFE to aluminum. This led to the discovery of a household item that is used in our kitchens, quite frequently.
Sticky Paper Notes
Sticky notes, also known as Post-it® notes or repositionable notes, are small pieces of paper that feature a light adhesive on the back. The adhesive allows the notes to be attached to a wide variety of documents and surfaces — and removed and reattached multiple times. In 1968, Dr. Spencer Silver, a Chemist at 3M Company, invented a unique, low-tack adhesive that would stick to things but also could be repositioned multiple times. The funny thing is that he was trying to invent a super-strong adhesive but ended up with a super-weak one. At the time, a weak glue seemed useless for everyone and its use was not recognized until Art Fry, a Colleague of Dr. Silver used the adhesive to keep bookmarks in his hymnal. Today, about 50 billion of these notes are used every year.
Safety glass is well-known for its shatterproof properties. Also called the laminated glass, the advantage of this material over normal glass is that it does not crack into sharp shards. Instead, it stays together even if it is cracked. Safety glass was invented by Édouard Bénédictus in 1903.
While working in his lab, he accidentally knocked a glass flask off of his desk. Much to his surprise, the glass more or less kept its shape rather than shattering to tiny pieces. This urged Bénédictus to investigate the matter. He found that the glass had at one time contained plastic cellulose nitrate, which had dried on the flask and created a type of adhesive film coating on the inside. This led to the discovery of this amazing household item that has found a number of applications in today’s world. Some common ones among them are mobile phone screens, car windows, and glass backed home-appliances.
Whether you believe it or not, plastic was an accidental invention. It is one of the most commonly used household items despite the fact that its use has changed drastically over the years. Recently, the use of plastic is being minimized in a lot of countries because it poses a massive threat to wildlife animals and the planet due to its non-biodegradable nature. Ironically, plastic was initially created to save wildlife by using it as an alternative to ivory.
In 1869, John Hyatt answered a New York firm’s call to find a substitute for ivory billiard balls. He found that combining cellulose (derived from cotton fiber) with camphor produced a substance which was flexible, strong, and moldable. Chemical companies soon began researching and developing new plastics for every different use like wartime equipment, furniture, cookware, motor vehicles, and various other household items. All in all, it can be used in virtually all the sectors of life.
Safety Pin is one of those household items that you are never able to find when you need them the most. Walter Hunt, the man who invented the safety pin had no intention of doing so. Hunt was simply fiddling with a piece of wire while trying to figure out a way to pay off a $15 debt when he invented the safety pin in 1849. While doing so, he noticed that the piece of wire now had a coiled spring at the bottom. Hunt added a clasp to the top, allowing the pointy end of the safety pin to be secured at the top and sold the idea outright for $400.