Adhesive, also known as glue, cement, mucilage, or paste, is any non-metallic substance applied to one or both surfaces of two separate items that binds them together and resists their separation.
The use of adhesives offers certain advantages over other binding techniques such as sewing, mechanical fastenings, or welding. These include the ability to bind different materials together, the more efficient distribution of stress across a joint, the cost-effectiveness of an easily mechanized process, and greater flexibility in design. Disadvantages of adhesive use include decreased stability at high temperatures, relative weakness in bonding large objects with a small bonding surface area, and greater difficulty in separating objects during testing. Adhesives are typically organized by the method of adhesion followed by reactive or non-reactive, a term which refers to whether the adhesive chemically reacts in order to harden. Alternatively, they can be organized either by their starting physical phase or whether their raw stock is of natural or synthetic origin.
Adhesives may be found naturally or produced synthetically. The earliest human use of adhesive-like substances was approximately 200,000 years ago, when Neanderthals produced tar from the dry distillation of birch bark for use in binding stone tools to wooden handles. The first references to adhesives in literature appeared in approximately 2000 BC. The Greeks and Romans made great contributions to the development of adhesives. In Europe, glue was not widely used until the period AD 1500–1700. From then until the 1900s increases in adhesive use and discovery were relatively gradual. Only since the last century has the development of synthetic adhesives accelerated rapidly, and innovation in the field continues to the present.