When engineers turn to nature for inspiration, they rely upon the wisdom of millions of years of evolution to guide the design of modern technology. In a stunning example of this biomimicry, researchers at Simon Fraiser University have developed a robot that can climb vertical surfaces thanks to the biology of a gecko’s foot.
(above image via: sfu; top images via: keith marshall + sfu)
Instead of using wet adhesives, the researchers turned to a dry adhesive method that would not leave behind a sticky trail. Some dry adhesive methods require pumping air for suction or use magnets that are only effective on metal surfaces. But the surface of a gecko’s foot can stick to any surface using the force that holds molecules together.
(image via: furrycrawly)
A gecko’s foot is covered in microscopic hairlike growths called setae, which the researchers mimicked using mushroom cap-shaped artificial hairs. According to SFU, “The mushroom cap shape allows the setae on the treads to release at an angle, so no extra force is require to unstick them from a surface. That’s what allows the tank to roll forward with ease, without dropping off the surface.”
Watch how it works:
SFU explains, “”The research…provides an alternative to using magnets, suction cups or claws which typically fail at climbing smooth surfaces like glass or plastic. It also paves the way for a range of applications, from inspecting pipes, buildings, airplanes and even nuclear power plants to employment in search and rescue operations…”