Behind all of these inventions are incredible stories. Let's take a look at some of these inventions that eventually became an integral part of our lives. Here we trace the story of products from lab to lifestyle!
Nothing is as ubiquitous as plastic. In fact, this man-made material has become so ingrained into our lives that we interact with one or the other form of plastic every day. But how did its journey begin? It all started with polyethylene, which is more familiar to us as polythene. It is one of the first plastics that was ever used. It was discovered by chance not once, but twice! The first one was sometime before 1900 when German scientist Hans von Pechmann came across a residue in his test tube. He thought that the waxy resin couldn't have any practical applications and failed to check further. The second time was when scientists Eric Fawcett and Reginald Gibson came across this by accident in 1933. When experimenting with ethylene, one of the vessels leaked. The presence of oxygen led to it acting as an initiator, leading to the formation of a white, waxy residue. Thus polythene came to be. The company the duo worked with saw the immense potential of the product and patented it. However, it took a few years until they were able to produce it with perfection. The first product they created out of polythene was a cream-colored walking stick. It was later used widely during World War II as an insulating material for radar cables. The low cost and highly versatile nature of the material were tapped into and the innovation turned into something that permeated into every walk of our lives. And the rest, as they say, is history.
These canary yellow notes have been around for the past several years. They are universal products and indispensable in offices. Available in a multitude of shapes and colours, these notes are used by not just office-goers but students as well. So how did these sticky notes come to be? This office organising tool was discovered by chance. Spencer Silver was a scientist at the company 3M. He researched adhesives in the laboratory. Over the process, he discovered an adhesive that would stick lightly to surfaces but it wouldn't bond tightly. Silver was trying to develop new adhesives that were stronger and tougher. But this new adhesive was anything but strong or tough. What Silver had discovered was microspheres that would retain their stickiness but had the characteristic of removability. Meanwhile, there was another scientist going through a dilemma. During his practice at the church choir, Art Fry, another 3M scientist, would use little bits of paper to mark the music notes because they would always fall out of the hymn book. He was in search of a bookmark that would stay but not damage the pages. And once he attended the seminar on Silver's microspheres, he had his "Aha" moment. The two scientists partnered and began developing a product. The new adhesive notes proved to be helpful in communication and they could see its immense potential. The notes were supplied to the staff at the company and were later launched to the masses. Thus was born the sticky notes. With it, the duo had forever changed the way people communicate!
What's for breakfast? Is it corn flakes? It is quite likely that you would have had cornflakes at some point in your life. The Kellogs corn flakes is a known breakfast brand. Did you know that the cereal was developed accidentally? It was in the 1890s that the com flakes were designed. The story starts at the Battle Creek Sanitarium health spa in Battle Creek, Michigan. It was run by brothers John Harvey Kellogg, a doctor, and Will Keith Kellogg who wanted to provide healthy food to the inmates. One night John Kellogg accidentally left a batch of wheat-berry dough midway. This was normally used to produce a type of granola. Rather than throwing it out the next morning, the dough was sent through the rollers. Instead of normal long sheets of dough, they obtained delicate flakes. These were then baked and they discovered a new type of cereal. Will Keith saw the potential of this new cereal and started his own company although John Harvey, who was a proponent of biologic" living, was not interested in making it a business. The Kellogg Company started producing corn flakes for the wider public. It was the start of a whole new cereal breakfast industry.
What's on your plate? Soon it can be lab-grown meat! The farmed meat is getting replaced by meat from the laboratory as meat products are grown from animal cells for human consumption. Recently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared lab-grown meat for human consumption as safe. Here, instead of meat reared from livestock, meat is grown in a sterile environment in a laboratory. The living cells from chicken are first taken and then grown in a laboratory. Thus the required meat product is created. Cultivated meat is dubbed green meat as it does not lead to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. The absence of the use of antibiotics in animals and a humane way of growing meat are some of the pros of lab-grown meat over traditional livestock production. Seen here is a cooked piece of cultivated chicken breast.
It powers almost everything. But do you know how it all began? The story behind creating the leakproof battery is quite an interesting one. Back in the day, the battery that was popular was the zinc-carbon battery. But they came with a problem. The zinc would swell and burst. It would cause leakage and short circuits and render the device inoperable. The problem was solved by Herman Anthony, an engineer with the company Ray-O-Vac, which was in the battery business. He used a better grade of manganese in the battery. This reduced the swelling. He then used steel to encase the battery. The battery was the first to solve the problem of leakage. In 1939, it was showcased to the public but the patent was received only in 1940. When World War II happened, batteries were rationed out to civilians. Like most companies at the time, Ray-O-Vac started supplying batteries to the military. The battery sealed in steel was widely used in flashlights, radios, walkie-talkies, mine detectors, and so on. After the war, it was used by the masses to power a plethora of devices.
Fire has been humankind's greatest discovery. And so have been the discovery of strikeable matches that we use now. It gave us the ability to light fires quickly and made life easier. But did you know that the strikeable match was invented by chance? The story takes us back to 1826. It was an English chemist John Walker who invented it. He was working on an experimental paste that can be used in guns. He noticed that the stick he was using burst into flames when he scraped it. He observed that it was the coating of chemicals on the stick that led to the wooden stick catching fire. That was how the first friction match was invented. He started selling his "friction lights", which became a huge success. While the first friction matches were made of cardboard, he soon started replacing it with wooden splints. However, he never patented his work and Londoner Samuel Jones copied the idea and launched his own matches as "Lucifers" in 1829.
Picture Credit : Google