The race for the best "gecko foot" dry adhesive got a new competitor this week with a stronger and more practical material reported in the journal Science by a team of researchers from four U.S. institutions.
Scientists have long been interested in the ability of gecko lizards to scurry up walls and cling to ceilings by their toes. The creatures owe this amazing ability to microscopic branched elastic hairs in their toes that take advantage of atomic-scale attractive forces to grip surfaces and support surprisingly heavy loads. Several research groups have attempted to mimic those hairs with structures made of polymers or carbon nanotubes.
In a paper to be published in the October 10 issue of Science, researchers from the University of Dayton, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of Akron describe an improved carbon nanotube-based material that for the first time creates directionally-varied (anisotropic) adhesive force. With a gripping ability nearly three times the previous record and ten times better than a real gecko at resisting perpendicular shear forces the new carbon nanotube array could give artificial gecko feet the ability to tightly grip vertical surfaces while being easily lifted off when desired.
Beyond the ability to walk on walls, the material could have many technological applications, including connecting electronic devices and substituting for conventional adhesives in the dry vacuum of space. The research has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.
"The resistance to shear force keeps the nanotube adhesive attached very strongly to the vertical surface, but you can still remove it from the surface by pulling away from the surface in a normal direction," explained Liming Dai, the Wright Brothers Institute Endowed Chair in the School
|Contact: John Toon|
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News