Improved Imitation of Gecko-Foot-Like Adhesive Device
Being able to securely connect two surfaces is fairly important in many situations, and in many other situations it is equally important to be able to disconnect the surfaces. Instead of using nails, screws, or chemical adhesives, scientists have been working to mimic the feet of geckos, which can naturally adhere to a wide variety of surfaces. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have already developed such an adhesive device, but by returning to the gecko for inspiration, have recently made it better.
For a long time biologists did not know how it was that geckos could grip as many surfaces as they can, including very smooth surfaces such as glass. Eventually it was confirmed that microscopic hairs on gecko toes exploit van der Waals forces to hold it to a surface. This force is a relatively weak bond between two adjacent molecules, but because of the number of hairs, it is enough to bear the weight of a gecko. Already the researchers mimicked these hairs with their Geckskin reusable adhesive device, but to improvement they are mimicking the gecko's skin-tendon-bone system.
This natural system allows the feet of geckos to conform to a surface, making maximum use of the hairs. By adding soft elastomers and ultra-stiff fabrics, the researchers have recreated the foot's ability to conform, while maintaining the stiffness required to stay pressed against the surface. When tested, one of the new Geckskin versions actually surpassed a gecko's ability to adhere to a surface.