Gecko-like adhesives now work on real-world surfaces

UMass Amherst Scientists Develop New, More Versatile Version of Geckskin
April 23, 2014
Geckskin scansor-1

The integrated tendon-skin morphology in the gecko foot (credit: UMass Amherst)

University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers report in Advanced Materials how they have expanded their design theory to allow Geckskin to adhere powerfully to a wider variety of surfaces found in most homes such as drywall, wood, and metal, not just glass — an elusive goal of many research teams across the world.

“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,” says polymer science and engineering professor Al Crosby.

Unlike other gecko-like materials, the UMass Amherst invention does not rely on mimicking the tiny, nanoscopic hairs found on gecko feet, but rather builds on “draping adhesion,” which derives from the gecko’s integrated anatomical skin-tendon-bone system, making a strong adhesive connection by conforming to a surface while still maximizing stiffness.

In Geckskin, the researchers created this ability by combining soft elastomers and ultra-stiff fabrics such as glass or carbon fiber fabrics. By “tuning” the relative stiffness of these materials, they can optimize Geckskin for a range of applications, the inventors say.

Demonstration of Geckskin, a gecko inspired adhesive which can adhere to a wide range of surfaces, can support high loads, and can be used repeatedly.

Abstract of Advanced Materials paper

Fabricated adhesives are demonstrated to support high loads while maintaining easy release on a variety of “real world” surfaces. These adhesives consist of simple elastomers and fabrics without nano or micron scale features, yet they surpass the adhesive force capacity of live Tokay geckos and can be scaled to large sizes.