It sticks!

The integrated tendon-skin morphology in the gecko foot. Credit: UMass Amherst

Sometime ago I posted a news about researchers at UMass Amherst studying how a gecko can walk upside down on ceilings and easily walk on smooth vertical walls. They managed to create a material that, mimicking the gecko "paws" can stick on smooth surfaces. 

Unfortunately, that material wouldn't work on rough surfaces, like a painted wall or a concrete wall. Yet the gecko seems to have no problem on those surfaces as well.

Behold! Now that same team of researchers at the UMass Amherst have managed to come up with a material that can do what a gecko does. Take a look at the clip.

They are pointedly calling this material "Geckskin". It is the result of joint work of researchers with background in polymer science engineering and biologists. 

The Geckskin can adhere to a variety of surfaces, concrete, metal, glass, wood... Whilst the first release of Geckskin was mimicking the nanoscopic hairs under the gecko feet this version leverages on "draping adhesion", a property deriving from the integration of the skin, tendons and bone system in gecko feet.  The point is to create a surface that conforms to the surface still maintaining stiffness.

The material is made of soft elastomers mixed with still finer based on glass or carbon. By altering the mix they can create a material that is best suited for a type of surface (material) or another optimising the usefulness depending on the specific application. In this way they can exceed the performances of the gecko!
Notice that it is not enough for a gecko to be able to stick its feet on any surface. It is equally important to be able to release the foot and move forward re-sticking it one step after the other. This is also possible with Geckskin.

I look forward getting rid of nails and using the hammer (that, I noticed, have a certain penchant to hit alternatively the nail and my finger-nail...).


Author - Roberto Saracco

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