Hey everybody! I know that we all have been excited about the news of the new water planet, Mizusei, which was discovered last week. Now as longtime fans of this blog will know I am not usually the kind of person who likes to travel to water-based planets because of my inability to swim; however, this new planet’s discovery has me excited because it got me thinking about my dear pal Dr. Harry Coover.
Harry and I go way back. We actually met when I time traveled back to the 1940s; my girlfriend at the time bought me tickets to see Frank Sinatra for our anniversary and I ran into him at the concert hall. Now when I met Harry he could not stop talking about this substance his lab had accidentally made. Harry worked in a lab that was trying to synthesize clearer plastics for guns; it was a big deal since America had gotten involved with World War Two. Just a few months earlier in 1942, Harry had synthesized cyanoacrylates, which stuck to everything. Now Harry was telling me about this because he thought it was a funny story of a lab mishap. But a decade later he realized the potential that this substance had on the market, and in 1958, superglue was released commercially to the public.
Now I know I promised you this post was about the cool new water planet, and it is, just be patient. The reason Mizusei’s discovery made me think of Harry Coover’s superglue is the properties that the cyanoacrylates have. Cyanoacrylates are made primarily of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The compound is highly reactive with water (see we are getting to that connection), creating an anion with a negatively charged carbon atom at one end. That anion then creates a chain reaction, connecting to the other cyanoacrylates and forming into a polymer. The stickiness of superglue comes from the intermolecular forces between the polymer and the surface. I can only think of the consequences of putting cyanoacrylates on Mizusei! With that kind of abundance of water, everything would stick to it! I will link you guys to this cool article by Andy Brunning that I found that gives a bit more detail about my buddy Harry Coover’s neat invention. (http://www.compoundchem.com/2015/10/15/superglue/).
This horror situation of a completely sticky planet got me thinking about how I stay dry when I visit my parents at home in Portland, Oregon. Portland is known for being almost constantly in a rainy season, and my lack of swimming abilities has transformed into a desire to always be dry over the past few years so I have had to look into rain-proofing everything. My two lines of defense are a nice raincoat and a heavy layer of Rain-X on my car. Raincoats often use a material commercially called Gore-Tex, which contains polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). PTFE is made up of carbon and fluorine atoms linked into a polymer. That polymer is hydrophobic, meaning it repeals water, which makes me happy. Cars and more specifically their windshields use a compound commercially known as Rain-X, which is made of polysiloxanes. Polysiloxanes are made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and silicone. This substance also forms a polymer which covers the car in a layer of hydrophobic material. The reason these substances do a good job of keeping me dry is their lack of interaction with the water that falls onto them. Without forces interacting between the coat, or car, and the water, the water beads up and runs off of the surfaces. Andy Brunning also made a cool graphic about this which you can find at http://cen.acs.org/articles/94/i15/Periodic-graphics-Water-repelling-chemistry.html.
If any of my followers plan on visiting Mizusei, your new knowledge of the interactions that water has with different materials should help you when choosing what to bring and what not to bring. Materials that are highly reactive with water should probably stay home. I hope you make sure to leave the superglue at home to minimize the risk of the destruction via sticky death of the planet. However, don’t forget to bring those raincoats to try and keep dry during your exploration. Safe Travels!