Gecko Feet Inspire Super-Strong Adhesive

The UMass Geckskin adhesive can hold heavy objects, like this TV, on flat surfaces. Image: UMass Amherst

Gecko’s are good at two things: selling insurance, and using their tiny feet to apply enough adhesive force to carry nearly 18 times their own body weight up a wall. So what could design engineers create do with a dry adhesive device that could hold that much weight, and be easily removed without leaving any residue? Some polymer scientists and biologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst wanted to know, and have come up with their own adhesive, called Geckskin, that mimics the lizard’s fancy footwork.

The UMass Amherst group created an adhesive with a soft pad woven into a stiff fabric. The “skin” is woven into a synthetic “tendon,” in order to maintain stiffness and rotational freedom. Geckskin (which comes in an index-card-sized sheet) can hold up to 700 pounds on a smooth wall, and using the same types of high-capacity reversibility and dry adhesion as gecko feet, can easily attach and detach heavy objects (like TVs or medical equipment) on flat or slanted surfaces — even glass. The Geckskin can be released with little effort and re-used, and leaves no residue.

You can read all about the development in the current issue of Advanced Materials.

To help develop the adhesive, the polymer science and engineering lab enlisted the help of Duncan Irschick, a functional morphologist who has been studying geckos for two decades. The research was partly funded by DARPA via a subcontract to Draper Laboratories.

For more on designing with adhesives and testing them, see this week’s Editor’s Pick.

You can watch videos of both robot and real geckos climbing walls below:

Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst

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