German “Velcro” looks torturous

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At some point of time in our lives, we probably owned a pair of sneakers that were fastened using Velcro. Touted as the “ziperless zip”, Velcro is everywhere in our lives today – and used even in space.

Now, German scientists have taken the hook-and-loop fastener concept and developed an extreme version, called Metaklett.

Unlike the Velcro we all know, this torturous-looking invention can withstand temperatures soaring almost 1,500 degrees F. The new Velcro’s spring steel can hold 38 tons per square meter (or 2162 pounds per square feet) when a parallel force is being exerted. Metaklett can also resist a perpendicular pulling force of almost 8 tons per square meter. Useful if you need to strap at least two elephants to the ceiling.

Technische Universität München at Garching, a suburb of Munich

Technische Universität München at Garching, a suburb of Munich

Earlier this month, Science blogs around the world were buzzing about this new product. According to Popular Science, researchers developed several versions of the steel fasteners. The “Flamingo” uses wider hooks that deform slightly to glide into the perforated steel tape holes, and then revert to original form and resist back pull like an expanding river, the science magazine reported. There are less hardy versions as well, according to Metaklett’s website – which if you’re a geek, you can check out the specifications of each model there.

What’s perhaps more interesting is that Metaklett – just like everyday Velcro – can be opened up without specialized tools and used again, according to scientist Josef Mair and colleagues at the Technical University of Munich, Germany.

One American auto magazine is already thinking ahead and suggests that the new fasteners can be used to hang exhaust components, which routinely get up to and over 500 degrees F. AOL’s Autoblog.com writes:

Similarly, Metaklett could be used to mount objects around manifolds, even in turbocharged cars, which get really hot. Imagine using the stuff for engine mounts, where you could literally drop an engine in just a few seconds. Plus, you could just ‘Velcro’ the headers to the exhaust pipes.

Or how about body panels? If a Metaklett mounted body panel gets dinged or twisted, we could see just peeling it off and replacing it with a new one. No tools needed.

The original Velcro was very much a European invention – it was the brainchild of Swiss inventor George de Mestral. The name also reflects its European roots: “Velcro“, is a portmanteau of the two French words velours and crochet, or ‘hook’. Despite its European birth, the invention was largely popularized by the Americans. Today, Velcro is headquarted in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA.

Velcro has found its way into popular culture across the world. It has been part of many movies and is mentioned in songs – yes, there’s even a Velcro song by “Intertainers” RhettandLink – and television shows. In 2001: A Space Odyssey flight attendants on commercial spacecraft wear Velcro soled slippers to keep themselves attached to the deck; on Star Trek Velcro was used to attach phasers and communicators to the uniform belts or trousers.

How the latest German invention, which by the way clinched a third place prize in June at the German Steel Innovation Awards, will change how Velcro is used remains to be seen.