The Loh Down On Science

Sticky Feet

Tell that GEICO gecko to go stick it!??

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying why?  Because he can.

Gecko feet stick like glue to things like walls, yet lift easily as the gecko walks.  The key?  Countless microscopic foot bristles.  Each sticks to surfaces the way droplets do, via simple molecular attraction. For engineers, though, mimicking this design in the lab hasn’t been a snap.  Enter researchers from Polytechnic University of Bari, Italy.  They made gecko-like protrusions, but topped them with a very thin layer of silicone.  This keeps them in place, but is so thin it doesn’t hinder the Critter Cling.

Stick to the wall, pull, and it doesn’t budge.  To remove?  Bend one edge back, then peel away. You fight just one row of bristles at a time. It’s like pulling up a bathtub mat, little by little.

Practical uses range from non-slip tires to . . . Spiderman suits!  For when we . . . need to save the planet, stuff like that.  Could happen.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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