Gecko’s feet inspire unique wall hugging device

February 17th, 2012 - 8:12 pm ICT by IANS  

University of Massachusetts Washington, Feb 17 (IANS) Cracking the mystery of gecko’s amazing sticking power, scientists have developed ‘Geckskin,’ a unique wall-hugging device that can hold up to 700 pounds or over 317 kg.

For decades, scientists never ceased to be puzzled by gecko’s gravity defying feats that helped the five-pound (2.26 kg) lizard navigate wall surfaces effortlessly, whether vertical, slanted or even the roofs.

Beyond its impressive sticking ability, Geckskin can be released with negligible effort and reused many times with stickiness still intact, the journal Advanced Materials reports.

For example, it can be used to stick a 42-inch or 106-cm TV to a wall, released with a gentle tug and restuck to another surface as many times as needed, leaving no residue.

Doctoral candidate Michael Bartlett in Alfred Crosby’s Polymer Science and Engineering Lab at the University of Massachusetts (UMass), Amherst, led the research, according to an UMass statement.

Their group includes biologist Duncan Irschick, functional morphologist who has studied the gecko’s climbing and clinging abilities for over 20 years. “Amazingly, gecko feet can be applied and disengaged with ease, and with no sticky residue remaining on the surface,” he says.

This combination of properties at these scales has never been achieved before, the authors point out.

Crosby says that the Geckskin device is about 16 inches square, about the size of an index card, and can hold a maximum force of about 700 pounds while adhering to a smooth surface such as glass.

Previous efforts to synthesize the tremendous adhesive power of gecko feet and pads were based on the qualities of microscopic hairs on their toes called setae, but efforts to translate these to larger scales were unsuccessful.

Probably, the complexity of the entire gecko foot had not been taken into account then.

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