Sunday, 23 November 2014

Geckos inspire 'Spider-Man' gloves

9 November 2014 Last updated at 16:39

The way geckos climb has inspired a device that allowed a 70kg man to scale a glass wall like Spider-Man.

Much research has gone into trying to unlock the clever way that little geckos climb.

But trying to use gecko adhesion to work at larger scales - such as on a human hand - without any loss of performance has proven difficult.

The hand-sized silicone pads created by a team at Stanford University keep their adhesive strength at all sizes.

They employ the same attractive and repulsive forces between molecules - known as van der Waals forces - that geckos use.

Although the forces are very weak, the effect is multiplied across the many tiny hairs that cover the toes of a gecko, allowing them to stick firmly to surfaces.

Along the same lines, the Stanford team created tiny tiles called microwedges to harness van der Waals forces. They were able to produce a dry adhesive even more efficient than that of the gecko.

In tests, the 70kg (11 stone) climber successfully scaled a 3.6m-high vertical glass wall using 140 sq cm silicone pads in each hand.

The climber tested the adhesive hundreds of times on the wall without failure.

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