Materials and Chemicals

Want to Climb Like Spiderman? The Secret is in Gecko Toes

10 January 2018

The American Chemical Society reports that researchers have found a way to mimic the properties that make gecko toe pads so sticky. Using a nanoimprinting technique to build web-like layers, Hemant Kumar Raut, Hong Yee Low and their colleagues created a dry adhesive with stiff polycarbonate. The result is ultra-sticky but simple to fabricate in large batches.

Geckos can easily scale walls and traverse ceilings thanks to their unique feet. Gecko toe pads are covered with bristle-like layers of a stiff material called keratin, and that structure is what helps them stick to vertical or inclined surfaces, and to even be upside down. Each toe pad is covered with microscopic pillars, which then branch out at the tips into even smaller structures.

The researchers found that after 50 cycles of attachment and detachment their new adhesive resulted in only a 20 percent loss of stickiness. With the adhesive applied to its feet, a miniature robot was able to easily scale a 30-degree incline.

The abstract for the study appears in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

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