Published on February 21st, 2012 | by Glenn Meyers1
From “Sticks Like Glue” to “Sticks Like Gecko”
University of Massachusetts Amherst Scientists Create Super-Strong Adhesive with Geckskin
Biologists have long been drawn by the adhesive power of gecko feet that enable these 5-ounce lizards to scale vertical walls with nary a slip. Now polymer scientists and a biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have duplicated how the gecko accomplishes this feat. The result: “Geckskin,” a sticky material that can hold up to 700 pounds on a smooth wall.
Put in perspective, this Geckskin could hold a flat-screen television, and come down as easily as it was put up. Nor does it leave any unpleasant odor.
According to a press announcement from University of Massachusetts Amherst, many polymer scientists formed the research team, plus biologist Duncan Irschick, who has studied geckos’ climbing ability for more than 20 years. A gecko is able to move with ease on vertical, slanted, even backward-tilting surfaces.
In its research, the team reported that a gecko’s skin, bones and tendons work in unison to remarkable and sticky effect. ”Amazingly, gecko feet can be applied and disengaged with ease, and with no sticky residue remaining on the surface,” Irschick says.
The scientists believe these properties, high-capacity, reversibility and dry adhesion offer remarkable potential 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.
Geckskin is a stiff woven fabric incorporating a soft adhesive pad, woven into a “synthetic tendon” like that of a gecko’s foot. “Our design for Geckskin shows the true integrative power of evolution for inspiring synthetic design that can ultimately aid humans in many ways,” said Irschick. The team is aiming to further improve the Geckskin by looking at the wide variation evident in the evolution of gecko feet.
The UMass Amherst researchers are now improving the Geckskin design, even taking lessons from the evolution of gecko feet, which show remarkable variation in anatomy.
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through a subcontract to Draper Laboratories, plus UMass Amherst research funds supported the research project. The team’s findings have been published in the current online edition of Advanced Materials.