Gecko Foot Hair Could Lead To Self-Cleaning Adhesive Solutions
June 23, 2012

Gecko Foot Hair Could Lead To Self-Cleaning Adhesive Solutions

Lawrence LeBlond for

Researchers, studying the self-cleaning and reusable capabilities of a gecko´s foot hair, have speculated how commonly-used sticky substances could benefit from the animal´s natural adhesive properties.

Publishing their work in the June 13 issue of Interface, the Journal of the Royal Society, University of Akron mechanical engineering student Shihao Hu, and recent UA biology graduate Stephanie Lopez-Chueng of Keiser University in Tampa, Florida, and their colleagues recently discovered that the self-cleaning mechanism observed in the microscopic foot hairs (setaes) of the gecko is achieved through hyperextension of its toes.

“The analysis reveals that geckos have tiny sticky hairs on their toes called setaes, and due to the attaching and detaching mechanism caused by the rolling and peeling motion of their toes as they walk, they release the dirt particles leaving their feet clean,” said Hu. “The dynamic hyperextension effect of its natural toe peeling increases the speed of the cleaning to nearly twice as fast as previously perceived.”

Dr. Peter Niewiarowski, interim director, UA Integrated Bioscience Ph.D. program, said the findings demonstrate that “gecko-inspired adhesive can function under conditions where traditional adhesives do not, such as in a vacuum, outer space or under water.” He added that this type of adhesive would be able to “bind materials together very strongly yet also release very easily.”

The researchers conjecture how this could inspire the development of new applications in space and water exploration tools, or even in common items such as duct tape.