The biomechanics of a gecko’s toes have made it possible for researchers to create an incredibly sticky adhesive that’s strong enough to allow a human to climb up a glass wall. A team at Mark Cutkosky’s Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Lab created a device that spreads large loads evenly across every patch of the synthetic adhesive, enabling it to support a person’s weight.
Each handheld ‘gecko pad’ is covered with 24 adhesive tiles bearing sawtooth-shaped polymer structures. Each of these little appendages are about 100 micrometers long, about the width of a human hair. Special springs on the pads apply an identical force to each adhesive tile when they’re pulled on, causing the sawtooth-like structures to flatten.
“When the pad first touches the surface, only the tips touch, so it’s not sticky,” said co-author Eric Eason, a graduate student in applied physics. “But when the load is applied, and the wedges turn over and come into contact with the surface, that creates the adhesion force.”
Release the load tension, and the pad loses its stickiness, making it possible for humans to use them to climb up vertical surfaces. The tech could also be used to create manufacturing robots that are able to lift large glass panels or LCDs. It’s a cool example of biomimicry in action, looking to the complex engineering that’s already at work in nature to help us advance our own technology.
Photos provided by WENN.com