Materials Science

Climbing up the walls like a gecko

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Science  21 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6212, pp. 961
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6212.961-c
PHOTO: HAWKES ET AL.

The Tokay gecko scurries across ceilings with the help of tiny hair on its feet, which generate weak intermolecular forces that add up to a secure foothold. Scientists have recreated dry gecko-like adhesion using silicones, plastics, carbon nanotubes, and other materials, but they've run into a scaling problem: The stickiness drops rapidly with increasing surface area. Hawkes et al. offer a solution: an adhesive consisting of 24 tiles that distribute loads evenly among themselves, offering the same adhesive strength for sizes from a square millimeter to the area of a human hand. The adhesive works even if one tile fails to stick. Wearing hand-sized adhesives, a 70-kilogram human can climb a vertical glass wall, the team showed.

J. R. Soc. Interface, 10.1098/rsif.2014.0675.

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