News of the WeekBIOMECHANICS

Geckos Climb by the Hairs of Their Toes

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Science  09 Jun 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5472, pp. 1717-1718
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5472.1717a

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Biomechanists have uncovered the secret of how the gecko manages to run up walls and across ceilings: rows of tiny hairs with multiple split ends on the bottom of each toe pad. As they report in the 8 June issue of Nature, weak attractive forces between the 1000 or so split ends on each hair and the ceiling help the gecko grab even the smoothest surface. Armed with that knowledge, the researchers hope to design synthetic "footpads" to improve the maneuverability of robots and perhaps to design an entirely new type of adhesive.