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Gecko-inspired mess-free super-adhesive can stick a TV to the wall

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February 17, 2012

The super-adhesive 'Geckskin' can stick a 700-pound load to the wall without leaving a sti...

The super-adhesive 'Geckskin' can stick a 700-pound load to the wall without leaving a sticky residue (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Everyone knows geckos have extraordinary powers of adhesion, able to clamber up vertical windows with remarkable ease. With the "Geckskin", a team of scientists have replicated the effect to produce a flat, index-card sized piece of material capable of carrying a 700-pound (318-kg) load - easily enough for a flatscreen television. It can be removed with ease and leaves no unpleasant oomska. And interestingly, it doesn't work as you might think.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

You probably know that a gecko's toes have millions of microscopic hair-like setae that exploit van der Waals interactions that cause attraction and repulsion at the molecular level. Past attempts to replicate gecko superpowers have tended to focus on these setae as a means of making materials adhere, such as adhesive tapes, stickybots and wall-climbing robots. However, the team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst discovered that setae are not necessary to solve the problem, being but one part of a gecko's climbing toolkit.

The game's afoot

The research team is mainly comprised of polymer scientists, but also includes biologist Duncan Irschick who has been observing and thinking about geckos' climbing ability for more than 20 years. Taking a more holistic approach to the problem, the team realize that a gecko's skin, bones and tendons work in unison to remarkable and sticky effect.

The Geckskin is a stiff woven fabric incorporating a soft adhesive pad, woven into a "synthetic tendon" like that of a gecko's foot. "Our design for Geckskin shows the true integrative power of evolution for inspiring synthetic design that can ultimately aid humans in many ways," said Irschick. The team is aiming to further improve the Gecksin by looking at the wide variation evident in the evolution of gecko feet.

Effective

But the DARPA-funded project is already showing impressive results - with the team demonstrating a 16-square inch piece of material holding up a 42-inch TV - a mere fraction of the 700 pounds it's capable of carrying (the weight of an iNuke Boom, though I don't fancy the Geckskin's chances of withstanding the turning force of an object that size). Impressively, the carrying capacity apparently holds true for glassy surfaces. The Geckskin can apparently be removed (presumably peeled away) with "negligible effort" and can be "reused many times with no loss of effectiveness" which would seem to imply that in its present form the Geckskin does not continue to work at full strength indefinitely.

The team's findings have been published in the current online edition of Advanced Materials.

Sources: University of Massachusetts Amherst, Advanced Materials

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
11 Comments

I think that pealing the Geckskin away is both providing the right shearing force and like tearing a phone book in half applying the force to only a tiny portion at a time.

Slowburn
17th February, 2012 @ 06:09 am PST

I bet 3M executives are shaking in their boots worried that this might actually make it to market and destroy the market for their lines of VHB and other adhesive tapes. Either that, or they're already getting their lawyers ready to negotiate for the licensing rights to this technology.

Gadgeteer
19th February, 2012 @ 12:14 pm PST

Looks like a great way to tear off paint or wallpaper, whose grip on the wall up to now needed only to support its own weight.

If the wall has been repainted more than once, better be sure it was really well sanded in between.

Geometeer
20th February, 2012 @ 03:10 am PST

I'll stick with wallplugs, thanks... Will they accept claims like "TV broken because your sticky pad failed". I can see the small print forming before my eyes!

agulesin
20th February, 2012 @ 07:12 am PST

It's probably more likely that this product will be used to adhere the same smalll things that 3M tapes, Velcro strips and various kinds of glues do now instead of adhering 100+ lbs of TV on the wall.

Mark Keller
20th February, 2012 @ 10:41 am PST

Gee, a DARPA funded project at U of Mass - that would seem to indicate that government, not private industry, has made a very significant breakthrough innovation. I often wonder how many government funded innovations have enabled our 1% "job creators" to make so much money and just where companies like Apple, Facebook, GM, Exxon, etc... would be without government funded projects and infrastructures. Bearing the costs of long-term research is something that most companies cannot do, but government does so well, for the good of all.

Firehawk70
22nd February, 2012 @ 09:06 pm PST

I wonder how fast "negligible effort" will turn to "Herculean task" when you're trying to peel the Geckskin off the wall while your TV, or its mounting frame, is blocking your access to the Geckskin so you can't get at it to perform the removal process.

srmalloy
23rd February, 2012 @ 12:46 pm PST

Super heroes of the world! We can now climb walls with negligible effort, leaving strength for crime fighting! Oh rapture!

Ross84
27th February, 2012 @ 03:25 pm PST

NFL players can now stick this on their hands and never drop a ball again.

Ross84
27th February, 2012 @ 03:27 pm PST

A 42 inch tv or lcd?, was it simply upside down, or actually held like the position of a tv on a stand?

Dawar Saify
1st March, 2012 @ 06:36 am PST

"no unpleasant oomska"

Getting rid of the oomska is the hard part!

Michaelc
24th June, 2014 @ 01:16 pm PDT
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