A group of researchers conducted a new study to better understand sticky geckos and show how remarkable these adhesive feet are.
Gecko feet are matter of great interest to engineers, thanks to its instant sticking and unsticking characteristics.
Researchers explain when a gecko tries to scurry down a wall or hang off of a ceiling, it never compromises with its speed or energy. In fact, they are too fast at that. This mechanism makes geckos a great source of inspiration for both space-age adhesive materials and wall-climbing robots.
In 2000, the researchers found that the reptiles rely on very small forces between molecules, i.e. van der Waals forces, to move and achieve their target. Their feet are covered with hairs called setae. Researchers explain each tiny hair produces that small amount of force when exposed to a surface. Hence, big numbers of these tiny hairs together created reliable suction.
“These are really fascinating nanoscale systems and forces at work. It is based not just on the nature of the seta but the canted angles and flexibility they have and ability to work under a wide range of loading conditions,” lead study author P. Alex Greaney, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Oregon State University, said in a press release.
The setae are responsible for turning the stickiness on and off with instant speed, Greaney said while adding that for moving on the surface they hardly expend any energy.
Greaney said that setae have the potential to support 50 times body weight of a gecko while it hangs from the ceiling or climb on the wall. However, they don’t stop gecko from running at speed of 20 body-lengths per second.
Researchers further said that the huge and complex setae networks have inspired scientists in giving dry adhesives for robots and other technology.
“While we do not imagine ‘Mission Impossible’ sticky gloves, which are inspired by or based on the concept of gecko adhesion. We visualize that gecko adhesion will be used by the robots in extreme environments in the future.” Greaney said in a statement released on Tuesday.
The study was published in the Journal of Applied Physics on Tuesday.