Print 13 comment(s) - last by dark matter.. on Feb 21 at 5:58 AM

Feet so sticky even dead geckos still hang around
A 16-inch square holds 700 pounds on a vertical surface

For many people, the only time thoughts of geckos come to mind is likely when a commercial for a certain insurance company comes on TV. Geckos have feet that would allow the tiny little 5-ounce lizard haul 9 pounds straight up flat wall, assuming the lizard was buff enough. That is a major amount of adhesive force generated from a tiny surface.
A study of the gecko and its amazingly sticky feet has led the team of polymer scientists and biologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to invent material called Geckskin. The Geckskin material is able to hold 700 pounds on a smooth wall. The research team included doctoral candidate Michael Bartlett, and biologists Duncan Irschick. Irschick has studied the gecko and its ability to cling to surfaces for over two decades. The gecko in the wild is able to climb vertical, slanted, and surfaces that are backwards tilted with no problem.
"Amazingly, gecko feet can be applied and disengaged with ease, and with no sticky residue remaining on the surface," Irschick says. These properties, high-capacity, reversibility and dry adhesion offer a tantalizing possibility for synthetic materials that can easily attach and detach heavy everyday objects such as televisions or computers to walls, as well as medical and industrial applications, among others, he and Crosby say. 
The Geckskin device that the group of researchers created is 16-inches square being roughly the size of an index card. Crosby says, "Our Geckskin device is about 16 inches square, about the size of an index card, and can hold a maximum force of about 700 pounds while adhering to a smooth surface such as glass."
Despite the fact that the 16-inch square can hold 700 pounds on a surface as smooth as glass, it can be released with little effort and reused many times with no loss of effectiveness. Once removed, the Geckskin also leaves behind no residue. The team says that you could use the Geckskin to hold a 42-inch flatscreen TV to your wall and be able to release that TV with a simple tug and then stick it back on the surface repeatedly.
Prior attempts to re-create the sticky gecko feet focused on microscopic hairs on the toes of the gecko called setae. Those previous attempts failed to re-create sticking power of the gecko foot. The group the researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have been able to use a "simple and elegant" method to recreate sticking power.
"It’s a concept that has not been considered in other design strategies and one that may open up new research avenues in gecko-like adhesion in the future," said Crosby.
The research team says one of the key innovations was the ability to create an adhesive with a soft pad that is woven into a stiff fabric. That design allows the product to drape over a surface for maximum contact while maintaining the stiffness and rotational freedom needed. The researchers are working on improving the material now.

Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst

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By ph2010 on 2/17/2012 12:52:25 PM , Rating: 2
Tom Cruise need this stuff in Mission Impossible 4...

By TSS on 2/17/2012 6:02:11 PM , Rating: 3
Really? A Tom Cruise comment before we even get a Spiderman comment?

What is this world coming to....

By JediJeb on 2/18/2012 1:21:33 PM , Rating: 3
Sew this stuff onto the fingers and feet of a Spider Man suit and you have the next great Christmas Gift for kids!

Cabbage Patch Kids would never hold a candle to a real working Spider Man suit :)

By grbg on 2/20/2012 7:32:23 PM , Rating: 2
amazing stuff indeed

This makes people use the world in a more 3D way instead of platforms (game analogy intended).

Now just imagine a whole bunch of new thieves, robers, etc, using this...

By dark matter on 2/21/2012 5:58:29 AM , Rating: 2
The kids, no waaay. For me!!

sticky square
By residewnt1728 on 2/17/2012 12:03:38 PM , Rating: 4
I am not sure they mean 16 inches square, as said and then repeated in this article. 16 inches square means 16 inches on each side. But then it was described as the size of an index card. That is a mighty large index card. How about 16 square inches? That is 4 inches to a side, or 16 sqauare inches. That also is not the size of an index card, being a bit smaller in surface area, but closer than the 256 square inches they are saying the patch is.

RE: sticky square
By ignitionxvi on 2/17/2012 1:22:15 PM , Rating: 3
Just wanted to let you know that it does indeed mean 4 x 4 inch square (16 square inches).

If you're on a university network, you can read the full paper here:

RE: sticky square
By ppardee on 2/17/2012 3:18:45 PM , Rating: 2
The average index card is 3x5... which is 15 square inches.... That's a difference of less than an 1/8th of an inch on each dimension. Were you thinking business card, maybe?

Not with kids around...
By MrBlastman on 2/17/2012 12:03:12 PM , Rating: 2
The team says that you could use the Geckskin to hold a 42-inch flatscreen TV to your wall and be able to release that TV with a simple tug and then stick it back on the surface repeatedly.

The television won't last a day with young kids in the room.

Neat technology--I'd love to hear more on how it works but since it isn't patented yet, we probably won't.

RE: Not with kids around...
By geddarkstorm on 2/17/2012 2:25:33 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, and thankfully, there's a lot on the work.

The key was not "microhairs" like most people had been pursuing. Apparently, that's more of a red herring feature of Gecko feet than an actual critical aspect (though useful for over all stickiness). What was critical was having a soft adhesive pad woven into a much stiffer fabric material with an artificial "tendon" creating tension. This causes the adhesive to "drape" against the vertical surface, and accommodate an immense amount of force--as we can see from their results on glass.

It is incredibly impressive, and nothing I was expecting! The entire key is the "tendon" structure. That also allows it to be disengaged easily, as releasing the tendon will unstick the pad.

They also described it kinda like this: the soft adhesive pad is like the scales on the bottom of the feet, the stiff fabric it's woven into is like the muscles and bones, and the "tendon" is like the tendons.

The exact details of this "tendon" are unknown to me though, so I'm not sure what it is; but it's been called their "secret sauce".

RE: Not with kids around...
By Paj on 2/20/2012 7:20:05 AM , Rating: 2
It's impressive, but I certainly wouldn't trust it to hold my 42" TV. It would need a great deal of stress testing before commercialisation. Something like a Mean Time Between Failures test.

Size and mating surface
By wesbucey on 2/18/2012 2:55:54 AM , Rating: 3
I guess most readers understood that the writer who was condensing the report into article length simply didn't understand the conventional difference between "16 square inches" (area of a square 4 inches on a side) and "16 inches square" (resulting in an area of 256 square inches) The clue, of course, was "about the size of an index card."

My curiosity is aroused by whether there is any requirement or the regularity or lack of irregularity of the mating surface to which the product will "cling" - does the surface need to be planar and relatively smooth or is the material flexible enough to adhere to a rough, curvilinear surface (like a tree trunk?) or a fuzzy surface (like a carpet or tapestry on a vertical wall?)

RE: Size and mating surface
By wesbucey on 2/18/2012 3:00:55 AM , Rating: 2
I noticed my typo:
"any requirement or the regularity"
should read
"any requirement for the regularity"

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