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Famous inventions: Velcro

Famous inventions: VelcroNature inspires science - how walking the dog led to the invaluable invention of Velcro.

One summer day in 1948, George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor, took his dog for a walk. They both returned home covered with burrs - the plant seed-sacs that cling to animal fur in order to travel to new grounds.

Mestral inspected one of the burrs under his microscope and saw that they had hundreds of "hooks" that caught on anything with a loop, such as clothing and animal fur. He saw the possibility of binding two materials in a simple fashion, if he could figure out how to duplicate the hooks and loops. It took eight years to experiment, develop, and perfect the invention, which consists of two strips of nylon fabric. One strip contains thousands of small hooks. The other strip contains small loops. When the two strips are pressed together, they form a strong bond.

The design was patented in 1955 under the name Velcro, and Mestral formed Velcro Industries to manufacture his invention. Today it is a multi-million dollar industry.

Did you know?

Each NASA space shuttle uses ten thousand inches of a special velcro. It is used everywhere, from the astronauts' suits, to anchoring equipment. A velcro patch is even used inside astronauts' helmets where it serves as a nose scratcher!