Sunday, 5 May 2013

Secret to Clingfish Suction Power Found

Using tiny hairs similar to those on gecko feet, clingfish are able to strongly and equally adhere to surfaces with a broad range of roughness, new research shows. The fish's suction powers easily outperform manmade suction cups, scientists say, adding that mimicking their design could lead to a new class of suction devices. 

The northern clingfish (Gobiesox maeandricus) is a species of salt-water fish native to the Pacific Coast of North America. The fish live in rocky intertidal environments, where strong waves and currents threaten to toss them about. To survive in this turbulent setting, the fish has evolved an adhesion disc on its belly, which takes up about 25 percent of its underside. Using the disc, the fish can achieve a death-grip on a variety of surfaces. 

"Basically, if they get stuck on a surface, you are going to have to really yank on them to get them off," said study researcher Adam Summers, a biologist at the University of Washington. "And if you throw them in a bucket with water and then dump it out, you'll have an empty bucket with nothing but the clingfish inside." [Image Gallery: Freaky Fish

Suction power 
Summers and his colleagues wondered how clingfish could rapidly stick to, and release from, surfaces of arbitrary roughness, and how they compare with manmade suction cups. To test this, the team made epoxy molds of "every kind of sandpaper you can imagine," from the finest sandpaper to those rough enough to strip finish from flooring. They put these molded surfaces into a tank filled with water. 

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