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If you have ever struggled to laminate an identity card, just imagine laminating a jet airliner. But that’s just what engineers at 3M are doing, in a bid to replace environmentally unfriendly paint with adhesive films.

Funded by the U. S. Department of Commerce, 3M has tested hundreds of materials to find polymers and glues that can stand up to jet fuel, hydraulic fluids and supersonic speeds. According to 3M project manager David Hoyle, the fluoropolymer film now in advanced testing with Boeing and Lockheed is proving easier to use than paint, which must be applied and removed in a special hangar; the Teflon-like polymer may last longer as well. 3M is also exploring drag-resistant films, and polymers with stealthy properties for military craft are probably not far behind. Hoyle says the tough skins may soon find their way onto interstate road signs and possibly automobiles.

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