Synthetic Gecko Skin

Written by Mike Awada on . Posted in Gadgets, Science

Many great pranks have been pulled over time using adhesives; duck taping a friend to a bed, gluing coins to a floor, and sticking a ‘kick me’ sign on someone’s back. Unfortunately, pranksters worldwide have been limited by scotch and duct tapes’ elementary adhesive abilities or superglues’ longer than comfortable effects. Fortunately, scientists have been hard at work developing a sticky alternative that will change the way we prank and the way we live our lives. They’re calling it GeckSkin.

People who see a gecko climbing up a wall seldom stop to think about the amazing science happening in every step. Gecko’s feet have some incredible properties, and their gravity defying capabilities stem from two major features of their anatomy. In gecko’s feet, their tendons are stitched right into their skin! Tendons are ridiculously strong for their size and this creates an adhesion that can engage and disengage effortlessly. Gecko’s also have bristles on the bottom of their feet called setae. These setae actually create a tiny electric current using naturally occuring Van der Waals forces between molecules to stick to surface. Scientists for years have made it their goal of recreating this effect, and now that they finally understand the big picture of the gecko foot, they have reached their goal.

University of Massachusetts Amherst scientists found that the key to a successful model was a material that could maximize the surface area contact with an object, while being sticky. They successfully duplicated this gecko foot technology by weaving together rubber with cloth, giving it flexibility and toughness and duplicating the tendons and setae.

GeckSkin has some amazing properties. A piece of GeckSkin the size of an index card can hold up to 700 pounds! It has been tested to work on glass, wood, drywall, and metal. They are uncertain how long the GeckTape can maintain it’s grip, although they did support a TV for three hours and have experimented with other objects for over a month. Scientists don’t think it’s farfetched to think this tape could hold it’s cling for up to ten years! Afraid this will be stuck to you forever? Fascinatingly, it can be gently peeled off.

This super material, synthetic setae, leaves absolutely no sticky residue behind, and can be reused over and over, maybe thousands of times! The commercialization possibilites have began to be discussed, and we may be able to experience setae at some point next year.

If this material is as advertised, there are countless industrial and recreational uses for it. This is every mountain climber and window washers dream come true. It could also be a great source for futuristic and mind-boggling pranks. Scientists have given us the platform, it’s up to us to find a use for it.


Physics Central

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  • Mike

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    “Don’t make me slap you with some super sticky synthetic setae sucka!”

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