- Invented in the early 1940s by scientists at Permacell, a division of the Johnson & Johnson Co., duct tape was built to fill the need for a strong, flexible, durable tape that could help the war effort, according to Avon, Ohio-based Henkel Consumer Adhesives, one of the world's largest makers of the stuff. Early versions consisted of medical tape laminated to a cloth backing, covered with polycoat adhesives and a polyethylene coating. It was colored Army green and nicknamed "duck tape" because it repelled water.
In 1998, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory physicists Max Sherman and Lain Walker tested a variety of sealing materials on sheet metal ducting, then heated and cooled the ducts to simulate the aging process. They soon found that duct [sic] tape leaked air so badly much of the cooling and heating was wasted -- and that the tape frequently shrunk, dried up or separated.
"It failed reliably and often quite catastrophically," says Sherman. "And nothing else except duct [sic] tape failed."
— Larry, Attack Monkey, Light Reading