redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
The University of Massachusetts Amherst scientists behind a super-adhesive material inspired by gecko feet have described a new, more versatile version of their invention that can be used on real-world surfaces.
The improved version of the reusable material known as Geckskin is capable of strongly adhering to a greater variety of surfaces. However, just like a gecko’s feet, it is able to detach from those surfaces easily, the researchers explain in the most recent issue of the journal Advanced Materials.
“Imagine sticking your tablet on a wall to watch your favorite movie and then moving it to a new location when you want, without the need for pesky holes in your painted wall,” polymer science and engineering professor Al Crosby explained in a statement Thursday.
Previously, Crosby, polymer science researcher Dan King, biology professor Duncan Irschick and their colleagues demonstrated that Geckskin could hold loads of up to 700 pounds on smooth surfaces such as glass.
However, in their new paper, they explain how they have expanded their design theory in order to allow the material to stick powerfully to a greater variety of surfaces, including wood and drywall. It accomplishes this not by mimicking miniature, nanoscopic hairs typically found on gecko feet, but by improving on “draping adhesion” derived from the lizards’ skin-tendon-bone system, the study authors explained.
“The key to making a strong adhesive connection is to conform to a surface while still maximizing stiffness,” King said. He and his co-developers were able to create this ability in Geckskin through a combination of soft elastomers and extremely still fabrics such as those made out of glass or carbon fiber. By altering the relative stiffness of those materials, Crosby’s team was able to optimize the material for several different applications.
The researchers then compared the performance of three different versions of Geckskin to an actual Tokay gecko in order to verify their claims about the material. They reported that, as anticipated, one version of Geckskin was able to match (and perhaps even exceed) the living gecko’s performance on all tested surfaces.
“The gecko’s ability to stick to a variety of surfaces is critical for its survival, but it’s equally important to be able to release and re-stick whenever it wants,” Irschick said. “Geckskin displays the same ability on different commonly used surfaces, opening up great possibilities for new technologies in the home, office or outdoors.”
“It’s been a lot of fun thinking about all of the different things you ever would want to hang somewhere, and then doing it. Geckskin changes the way you think,” added Crosby, who in February 2012 described the adhesive material as approximately 16 inches square, or “about the size of an index card.”