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'Super tape' can support the weight of a full grown man

Posting in Design

By mimicking gecko feet, scientists have developed a powerful reusable tape.

Remember those TV commercials that showcased the bonding power of Krazy Glue by featuring a construction worker dangling from a steel beam? Well, scientists have now developed a tape capable of the same kind of feat and -- get this -- it can be used over and over again, up to a thousand times.

Researchers all over the world have long been fascinated with the seemingly death-defying gecko lizards and their real-life spidey feet. So much so that they've sought to make materials that mimic the sticky effect. For instance, scientists at Northwestern University have created geckel, an adhesive that combines a gecko-inspired material with a synthetic adhesive modeled after the glue-like material found in mussels. However, a team led by Stanislav Gorb at the University of Kiel may have figured out a way to one-up all such previous efforts.

The invention they came up with is similar to scotch tape, but instead of using a glue coating, which erodes over time, the bonding strength comes from a design that resembles the tiny split hairs at the bottom of gecko feet known as setae. These structures enable geckos to scurry across ceilings because at the tip are spatula that can flatten out to mold itself to whatever terrain it comes in contact with. This generates an electric force that attracts molecules to each other, which scientists refer to as Van der Waals forces.

The result is a tape that's at least two times harder to dislodge than a flat tape. And since it doesn't rely on a separate adhesive coating, a piece of tape won't leave sticky residue, works in wet environments, and will last for through many uses.

Impressive, but the next most obvious question is "how do you peel it off?" Well, it's a bit complicated but the process involves attacking the stubborn problem from many angles. "In order to peel this tape off I have to peel this tape off of every single contact at every single structure at every single time," Gorb told InnovationNewsDaily.

In fact, pulling on tape actually enables the tape to bond to surfaces even better.

To demonstrate the clinging power of the material, researchers applied a piece that measured less than 8 inches by 8 inches to a flat horizontal glass surface and attached a handle from which one of their members used to hang from the ceiling. Hmmm… judging from the photo, you think he’s angling to be in an ad campaign?

(via Discovery News)

Photo: University of Kiel & Claudia Eulitz/Institute of Making

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure