Electric Gadgets and Giant Squids

cell phone

How do you go from protecting electronics to preserving a giant squid?

Imagine playing a video on your computer or calling your cell phone while they’re submerged in a curious liquid that looks like water … or having the confidence to dunk your irreplaceable family photos in the mysterious fluid. Surprisingly, all would emerge unscathed. That’s because 3M scientists invented a unique type of chemistry — 3M™ Novec™ brand fluids — that doesn’t harm devices or memorable treasures. In fact, in many instances it’s used to protect them. There is no sleight of hand; this is 3M innovation at work. This seemingly magical fluid is virtually harmless to electronic devices and evaporates completely without a trace of dampness or residue. It is no wonder then, that the Novec fluid is used to safely extinguish fires in places that house our American treasures – places like the Alamo and the Library of Congress. The fluid is even used to protect Benjamin Franklin’s library and the PA State Assembly Bible used to swear in the Speaker of the House.

Beyond the museums and archives, it’s likely that you encounter 3M Novec fluids every day. This chemistry makes our love affair with electronic gadgets possible. It’s used to clean electronic devices and to minimize heat produced by our computers and phones.

But innovation applies to all things big and small, so it’s no wonder that the miraculous fluid used for that gadget in your pocket is also being applied to something as big as … a giant squid.

If you pay a visit to the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., you’ll easily encounter both wide-eyed children and adults alike who are awestruck when they see the 24-foot-long squid displayed in an enormous tank, neatly preserved by Novec chemistry. It is the magic of innovation that lets museum visitors clearly view the giant specimen because, unlike alcohol, Novec fluid does not yellow or discolor the specimen.

The curious journey of 3M Novec chemistry from electronics manufacturing to fire suppression is one that will continue. In fact, the fluid is even used in the manufacturing of orthopedic implants. Many of us have loved ones who are walking around with a titanium hip due to hip replacement surgery. Orthopedic implant device makers often use Novec fluid to clean them, since it provides precision cleaning and leaves no residue.

The power of innovation is such that one simple idea can affect our daily lives in ways that are multiple and significant. Finding the right application, well, that’s just a matter of chemistry.