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Sticky questions tackled in gecko research
Date:12/20/2007

hundreds of thousands of hair-like structures, known as setae, on geckos toe pads. In 2000, researchers demonstrated that the large surface area of setae allow the animals to take advantage of molecular-level attraction called van der Waals forces to stick to virtually any surface. More recently, it has been shown that friction is also involved, and that these animals use a whole bag of tricks to help them adjust to circumstances from moment to moment.

By looking at the rocky habitat of a southern African species of gecko, Russell and Johnson concluded that the setae likely evolved to give geckos traction on rugged surfaces, since only a small area of each toe pad may be able to find purchase in order to maintain grip.

Its kind of like the tire of a car, Russell explains. You have a large area of tread but at any moment in time, theres only a tiny portion that is actually in contact with the road, and you are depending on that to do the job in a variety of circumstances.

Researchers and corporations around the world are racing to create the first synthetic gecko glue and the U.S. military is leading the way in trying to create gecko-inspired robots that can scale any surface.

The goal is to create a completely dry adhesive that doesnt leave any residue behind and will remain attached as long as you apply a load to it and can be re-used an unlimited number of times, Russell said. Once we conquer how it works it could be reasonably cheap to manufacture and the possible uses are endless.

Russell says learning from how species are designed by nature to deal with environmental challenges provides key lessons for human innovations.

This nano-technology has been around for over 50 million years and we are only just beginning to understand how it works, he said.


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Contact: Grady Semmens
gsemmens@ucalgary.ca
403-220-7722
University of Calgary
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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