Engineers Try to Emulate Sticky Gecko Feet

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Hours of research continue to be spent investigating—and trying to emulate—the incredible “sticky” gecko foot, one of God’s most crafty creations.

Researchers at the University of California–Berkeley are taking steady steps toward perfecting a synthetic version of the adhesive geckos rely on to scale walls and even ceilings. The latest breakthrough: an adhesive that cleans itself, without using water or chemicals, after each use, just like the tiny hairs on gecko’s toes.

The self-cleaning ability would allow the adhesive to remain sticky even after encountering dirty surfaces, which seems barely possible because of the way sticky surfaces usually attract grime.

“It goes completely against our everyday experience with sticky tapes, which are ‘magnets’ for dirt and can’t be reused,” explained Berkeley’s Ron Fearing, team leader. “With our gecko adhesive, we have been able to create the first material that is adhesive and yet cleans itself a little bit with every contact.”

Shedding larger dirt particles, however, remains a problem that will require more research into the gecko toe hairs. The team also looks to improve adhesion over rough surfaces.

The goal for the research is building “truly all-terrain robots,” according to Fearing, suggesting such robots may one day “scamper up walls and across ceilings in everyday environments rather than only on clean glass . . . to go anywhere they are needed, perhaps in the search for survivors after a disaster.”

And all of it, of course, is inspired by God’s incredible gecko—one of many animal capabilities scientists are still working to understand and replicate.

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