The University of Massachusetts Amherst has come up with a tape that was inspired by gecko feet. It is a reusable adhesive fabric that can be cheaply made, and it is called Geckskin. It is tens of centimeters wide and is actually three times stronger than gecko feet.
Patches of this material can be attached to glass and still hold up over 300 kilograms of weight. The researchers of this product said that amount is more than any other adhesive can hold, and this one can be reused over 100 times. That makes using this to hang up televisions or to hold computer and car parts together a breeze.
The inspiration, gecko’s toes, has the perfect example of the best adhesive, which must be soft on one side to conform to the surface but also stiff to hold weight. Gecko toes have fibers that are made of strong proteins, but “are thin enough to bend and make close surface contact.”
While others have tried to emulate the hairs on the toes, UMass took a simpler approach by depositing “a thin rubbery polymer layer on a fabric made of stiff carbon fibers.” It works by using the Van der Waals force, which is the sum of the attractive or repulsive forces between molecules.
Duncan Irschick, UMass biologist involved with the research, explained the stiff side is what gives the material its strength. The fabric is a millimeter thick and has a “striking force of about 30 newtons per square centimeter,” which is three times the amount of gecko’s toes. Although according to the leader of the research, UMass Science and Engineering Professor Alfred Crosby, the adhesive should work on any surface, but there are more studies that must be done.
Crosby described the product as, “Our Geckskin device is about 16 inches square, about the size of an index card, and can hold a maximum force of about 700 pounds while adhering to a smooth surface such as glass.”