Scientists at The University of Manchester have developed a new type of adhesive, which mimics the mechanism employed by geckos (a type of lizard) to climb surfaces, including glass ceilings.
Researchers within the newly opened Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology have been working on the new adhesive since 2001, after learning the mechanism of gecko’s climbing skills from biophysicists. Now they have been able to manufacture self-cleaning, re-attachable dry adhesives, and the research team believes it won’t be long before ‘Spiderman’ gloves become a reality - particularly useful for rock climbers and window cleaners.
The new adhesive (‘gecko tape’) contains billions of tiny plastic fibres, less than a micrometer in diameter. The Fibres mimic the hairs that cover the soles of geckos’ feet.
Dr Irina Grigorieva, Kostya Novoselov, a postdoctoral researcher, and EPSRC visiting fellow Sergey Dubonos, who micro fabricated the structures, worked on the project together with Professor Andre Geim, Director of the Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology. Professor Geim commented: “We have realised that our unique expertise and facilities at the Centre can immediately contribute to this research area, where only biologists and biophysicists could before.
While they have considered producing large amounts of gecko tape, the cost is prohibitive. They also feel that there is no scientific benefit, so have limited their demonstration to the gecko toy.
Many academics and researchers have been working on the elusive ‘gecko tape’, including Bob Full from Berkeley University. He commented: “Geim's development is very exciting, as uses for the tape are nearly unlimited. In addition to a general adhesive, it can be used to move computer chips in a vacuum, pick up small fibres, and design novel bandages. It’s like Velcro without the need for an opposite!”
The results of the University’s research have been published in the July edition of Nature Materials