Machine Design

Mimicking Geckos to Climb Walls and Ceilings

Scientists and engineers who are on the prowl for the lasting and inexpensive adhesives have explored both man-made and natural substances as a solution.

Julie Kalista
Online Editor

One natural substance, Gecko foot hair, shows some promise. Millions of the microscopic hairs interact and generate a strong adhesive force on the bottom of gecko lizard's feet. Geckos remove their feet from the surface by peeling them off, similar to removing tape.

Inspired by geckos, researchers made a much larger device with each hair equipped with a small magnet at the end. When they all work together, they securely stick to steel and iron surfaces. Hundreds of small points of contact let the device work on rough or curved surfaces and can be removed by peeling, similar to the way geckos operate. Researchers hope this may be used in the development of surveillance or inspection robots for steel bridges, towers, and nuclear plants.



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