A parallel Worlds

Saturday June 30 2007 / Science & Technology

Researchers have created a robot that can run up a wall as smooth as glass and onto the ceiling at a rate of six centimeters a second. The robot currently uses a dry elastomer adhesive, but the research group is testing a new ultrasticky fiber on its feet that should make it up to five times stickier.

And the inspriation behind the technology? The Gecko.

Geckos are able to stick to surfaces thanks to very fine hairlike structures on their feet called setae. These angled fibers split into even finer fibers toward their tips, giving the gecko's foot a spatula-like appearance. These end fibers have incredibly weak intermolecular forces to thank for their adhesiveness: the attractive forces act between the fiber tips and the surface they are sticking to. Individually, the forces are negligible, but because the setae form such high areas of contact with surfaces, the forces add up.

Other research teams are trying different technologies including vacumn pads and sharp claws; however, the Gecko approach is looking very promising.

I am not sure I would like them crawling around the house though!

Suggested by
Ian Skellern