The gecko can stick to almost anything, at any angle, any surface and then slide off just as easily. For years companies have tried to mimic the stickiness of a gecko's feet in attempts to nail the next blockbuster adhesive.
Most companies have tried to do this by copying the setae, the hairs on the bottom of the gecko's feet, but not with huge success.
Recently a research team out of the University of Massachusetts has managed to create a small, 16-inch square piece of material that can hold a force of 700 pounds even on a surface as smooth as glass.
Their edge over the competition came from their focus on a fortuitous and specific quirk of the gecko: Apparently the gecko’s tendons are directly woven into their skin.
From one of the researchers:
In order for something this large to use adhesion, its tendons are stitched right into its skin. And so you have the tendon, which is very stiff tissue, connected to the skin and the setae. That direct connection is critical. Without that, the gecko could not use adhesion. This direct integration is what we ended up mimicking in Geckskin.
The researchers say Geckskin is reuseable and they believe will keep its sticking power for up to maybe a thousands of uses. And it is goo-free.
It’s worked on wood, metal and drywall. The researchers have tested heavy items like a 42-inch flat screen tv for three hours, but that’s not enough for any sort of semi-permanent attachment.
The researchers are not revealing the names of interested commercial companies but apparently they are well-known.
As for consumer costs, the materials used for the 16-inch square are under 25 cents but that doesn’t include costs for large-scale production. Materials include carbon fiber and Kevlar. But a much cheaper nylon-based design is in the works.
The researchers intend to have something ready for market by end of 2013.