Gecko inspires creation of ’sticky nanotubes’ for industry

April 30th, 2008 - 2:50 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 30 (IANS) Researchers are trying to harness the gecko’s ability to scale walls effortlessly, with a practical bearing on military and industrial uses, by developing ‘peel test’ norms for nanosized manufacturing. ‘Peel tests’ are used in industry to determine just how much force is required to pull a material off another. But no tests exist for nanoscale structures, said Arvind Raman of Purdue University.

Tiny branching hairs called setae on the animal’s forefeet raises questions like “how does it stick, and, equally important, if the adhesion force is strong enough to hold its weight onto a surface like a wall, then how does it then unstick, or peel, itself to move up a vertical surface?” asked Mark Strus, Raman’s associate, reports Sciencedaily.

Researchers are learning about the physics behind how such tiny structures stick to other materials, to manufacture everything from nano-electronics to composite materials and biopolymers such as DNA and proteins, Strus said.

The energy it takes to peel a nanotube from a surface was measured in “nanonewtons,” perhaps a billion times less energy than that required to lift a cup of coffee, Strus said.

Nanotubes also have possible medical applications, like creating more effective bone grafts and bio-molecular templates to replace damaged tissues, which requires knowing precisely how the nanotubes stick to cells.

These findings were published in Nano Letters early this year.

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