Some inventors can spend years developing an innovative project, so how must they feel when something revolutionary happens completely by accident?
We take a look at five of our favourite accidental inventions of all time. Got a better one? Let us know in the comments below!
Percy L Spencer, an engineer who’d worked in the Navy during World War I, had an interesting surprise when experimenting with a microwave-emitting magnetron. He felt a sizzling in his trousers… and realised that the chocolate bar in his pocket had started to melt as a result of the microwave radiation. The discovery led to the time-saving invention beloved by generations of time-poor people: the microwave oven.
Superglue started out as a failed and particularly frustrating experiment. In 1942, Dr Harry Koover was trying to create a substance that could be used to create gun sights, but his product was a miserable failure as it stuck to everything. It was only six years later, when he was working on aeroplane canopy designs, that he realised the substance could form a strong bond without heat and thus was born the saviour of many a modern predicament!
Never was a man so appreciative of his pup as George de Mestral was of his when it led to an exceptionally profitable discovery. After getting increasingly frustrated at burrs attaching themselves to his dog’s fur while out walking, Mestral looked more closely at them under a microscope to discover they had tiny “hooks” that attached themselves to fabric and fur. It took two years to bring the product we now know as Velcro to fruition… but took another two decades for NASA to bring this essential item to popularity.
This is definitely one we couldn’t do without. The humble potato chip (or crisps for us in the UK) actually came about as a result of an argument in a hotel! In 1853, a guest at the Lake House near Saratoga Springs complained about hotel chef George Crum’s fried potatoes, saying they were too thick, soggy and bland. To get his own back, Crum served the crispest, driest and saltiest fried potato he could manage, but his scheme “backfired” when the grumpy guest loved them! “Saratoga Chips” went on to become a hit across New England… and the rest as they say is history. Fancy making your own crisps? Take a look at our super-easy recipe.
Of course we can’t forget one of the most brilliant inventions of all time: Teflon, invented by accident when Roy Plunkett was trying to create a better refrigerator. His idea was to combine tetrafluoroethylene with hydrochloric acid, but after he cooled the mixture in pressurised containers to store for later, it vanished! It had in fact solidified to the canister walls and as it turned out formed both a non-stick and inert surface. Teflon was born. Originally used for artillery shells, it was only a decade later when Marc Gregoire’s wife realised the nonstick substance would be perfect for cookware that Gregoire created the Tefal non-stick pan. (Find out more about Tefal innovations).