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Press Release 08-013

The Pitter Patter of Little Feet . . . Climbing Straight Up a Wall

New adhesive is first to mimic quick catch and rapid release traits of a gecko's foot

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A gecko sits atop a glass surface in this image from the NIRT laboratory.

A gecko sits atop a glass surface in this image from the NIRT laboratory.

Credit: Kellar Autumn and Steve Scherf. Full resolution images are available for license, and require permission from Kellar Autumn for use (http://lclark.edu/~autumn).


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The new microfibers researchers developed to mimic the gecko's foot pads.

Researchers have developed a directional adhesive, inspired by the gecko, using microfibers made from a hard polymer, polypropylene. The polymer fibers are 600 nanometers in diameter, just 1/100 the diameter of a human hair, and are formed by a casting process. Like the gecko, the synthetic microfiber array is not sticky except when fibers slide a small distance along a surface. While the present microfiber array works on smooth glass, future versions could be useful for medical equipment, sporting goods, or climbing robots where a directional and easy attach-release adhesive is needed.

Credit: J. Lee and R.S. Fearing, UC Berkeley


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The gecko-inspired adhesive can support significant weight.

The gecko-inspired adhesive can support significant weight. Increasing weight increases contact area for the adhesive (contact area is the bright area near the top of the patch). As the load increases, more fibers are recruited to make contact, increasing the strength of the adhesion parallel to the surface. When the sliding force is removed, the fibers straighten, and the patch is easily released with negligible pull-off force. The patch has demonstrated better than 1/6 of a real gecko's stress on the same glass surface. A video showing the tape under testing in the laboratory is available at: http://robotics.eecs.berkeley.edu/~ronf/Gecko/Interface-slide-adhesion/SldingInducedAdhesion_spring_area.wmv

Credit: J. Lee and R.S. Fearing, UC Berkeley


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This collage illustrates gecko adhesion,  from toes to nanostructures.

This collage illustrates gecko adhesion, from toes to nanostructures.

Credit: K. Autumn, Lewis and Clark College. Full resolution images are available for license, and require permission from Kellar Autumn for use (http://lclark.edu/~autumn).


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Conceptual drawing illustrating how the new material functions.

This conceptual drawing illustrates that as a load increases on the new adhesive material, more fibers are recruited to make contact, increasing the strength of adhesion parallel to the surface.

Credit: J. Lee and R.S. Fearing, UC Berkeley


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A close-up view of a tokay gecko's foot.

A close-up view of a tokay gecko's foot.

Credit: K. Autumn, Lewis and Clark College. Full resolution images are available for license, and require permission from Kellar Autumn for use (http://lclark.edu/~autumn).


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