Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Technology Science

Gecko-Inspired Dry Adhesive Set For Space 141

Posted by timothy
from the for-all-your-sticking-to-stuff-needs dept.
AndreV writes "Biomimetic adhesives aren't new, but a PhD graduate in British Columbia has developed a new method of creating microscopic, mushroom-like plastic structures in order to produce a dry adhesive that mimics the stickiness of gecko feet—and is prepping his glue-free innovation for outer space. A research group at his university, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is engineering a spider-like, sticky-footed climbing robot destined to explore Mars, and it is also developing reusable attaching systems for astronauts to use where magnetic and suction systems generally fail. In the future, he says, single-use versions could be used in any number of medical applications as well as for replacements for everyday sticky needs, such as Post-It notes and Scotch tape."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Gecko-Inspired Dry Adhesive Set For Space

Comments Filter:
  • We all know that Geico is secretly behind this.
  • sweet (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SinShiva (1429617)
    +1 for spider robot technology
    • Re:sweet (Score:4, Interesting)

      by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @06:50PM (#27525661) Journal

      A friend of mine studied this stuff for his Ph.D research. It's the molecular-level adhesive force between the Gecko's feet and the surface that allows it to cling. That force is relatively-weak but when multiplied by a few million "pads" on the foot, it's strong enough to let a lizard climb up a wall. Or a robot.

      • Dust (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheLink (130905)
        Do the current synthetic "gecko feet" self-clean like the real geckos?

        Mars is probably quite a dusty place.
        • Ron Fearing's lab at UC Berkeley also does work on biomimetic materials such as synthetic gecko pads:

          his biomimetics lab [berkeley.edu]

          has a link to their self-cleaning gecko adhesive material on the front page.

          Self-Cleaning Gecko Adhesive (Sep. 2008) [berkeley.edu]

          First synthetic gecko adhesive which cleans itself during use, as the natural gecko does. After contamination by microspheres, the microfiber array loses all adhesion strength. After repeated contacts with clean glass, the microspheres are shed, and the fibers recover 30% of

      • it's strong enough to let a lizard climb up a wall. Or a robot.

        Why is your lizard climbing up a robot?

    • by Spatial (1235392)
      Now my mind is filled images of swarming sticky-footed Big Dog robots. [youtube.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 09, 2009 @04:18PM (#27523719)

    If you RTFA you will see that this new adhesive is not based on the nano-scale properties of gecko feet, but is the first space adhesive that doubles as a delightful gecko-flavored paste in emergencies.

  • You know, I hate it when my fingers feel sticky, even if they really aren't "sticky" in that stuff that I pick up stays stuck. You touch the backside of a post-it, and then for a little while they are sticky afterward. Or you touch scotch tape, and same thing - the fingers are just tacky and it feels weird in a fingers-down-the-blackboard sort of way.

    There is no way I'd want to be in Space and have to touch this stuff, and then not be able to get it off by washing my hands. I prefer to get my fingers sticky

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thedonger (1317951)
      It's not a "dry" paste you apply, but more like a silicone glove you wear. There is no loose anything to stick to you.
  • magnetic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Khashishi (775369) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @04:20PM (#27523757) Journal

    It's obvious that suction wouldn't work in space, but why would magnetic stickers fail?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by GSPride (763993)

      It's obvious that suction wouldn't work in space, but why would magnetic stickers fail?

      You're trying to stick to plastic?

    • by Cyberax (705495)

      Non-ferromagnetic metals or plastic.

    • Re:magnetic (Score:5, Funny)

      by SnarfQuest (469614) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @04:25PM (#27523835)

      Magnetic stickers only work on refrigerators. Since it's colder on the outside of the space station, you can only use them on the inside.

      • Re:magnetic (Score:5, Funny)

        by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @04:36PM (#27523975) Journal
        That's rubbish. Magnetic stickers don't work in space because there is no North or South pole to point to.
        • Re:magnetic (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SnarfQuest (469614) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @04:52PM (#27524171)

          Someone needs to collect all the scientific knowledge expressed in slashdot posts, and write a text book. Why hide this useful archive of scientific truths in obscure blog posts when we can use it to illuminate the minds of the children?

          • Re:magnetic (Score:5, Funny)

            by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @05:08PM (#27524415) Journal
            I'm just practicing for when my daughter gets old enough to start asking "why?" about everything.

            I am SO going to screw her up for elementary school science classes.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Gilmoure (18428)

              My 8 year old asked why you can't divide by 0. Said her teacher told her that she shouldn't do that but now she wants to know why she shouldn't do it. Sigh. I showed her divide by zero error on a calculator. /damn my art school (won't need math for this degree!) drop out education (even art school has homework requirements)

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by BytePusher (209961)
                Just explain it like this... 1/1 = 1, 1/0.5 = 2, 1/0.1 = 10, 1/0.01 = 100, 1/0.001 = 1000, 1/0 = infinity. You CAN divide by zero, but the answer isn't useful for finite math.
                • by Gilmoure (18428)

                  Ah, this is perfect. Totally makes sense, compared to that far off high school algebra class, back in the early '80's. I mean, you'd think a football coach who'd played for the Browns would also be a decent math teacher, wouldn't ya!

                • Yeah, because they still ignore that the result (infinity) is i two-component result (much like complex numbers), but with the second component being (i guess) temporal.
                  That way, you do not lose anything, and can still use formulas with infinity inside them, and get useful results too.

                  In my eyes, zero and infinity (there are two types: the negative and the positive one, just like with zero) are in the same group.
                  You could also see zero as some kind of infinity. Because you can go smaller and smaller, and ne

                  • by fractoid (1076465)
                    So, as the guy did with complex numbers, you say "nevertheless we shall proceed to operate", leaving the problematic entity as an algebraic value?

                    So say, like calling sqrt(-1) 'i' and manipulating it algebraically, you call the value of 1/0 by some label. I shall arbitrarily choose 'fuck'. Then you have equations like:
                    (a + 5) / 0 = 5
                    Which rearranges to:
                    (a + 5) * 1 / 0 = 5
                    (a + 5) * fuck = 5
                    a = 5 / fuck - 5
                    a = 5 / (1/0) - 5
                    a = 5 * 0/1 - 5
                    a = -5

                    ...holy shit, that worked O.o I was just making st
                • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                  by Daimanta (1140543)

                  2/0=inf.
                  3/0=inf.
                  2/0=3/0
                  Multiply by zero:

                  2=3

                  If you can divide by zero, numbers make no sense. That's amazing you say, has somebody ever tried to divide by zero and did bad things happen as a result?

                  Yes, do you remember the banking crisis of 2008, that's when 1 tiny bank accidentally divided by zero. Through the internet this ofcourse rapidly spread and soon numbers made no sense. Because they made no sense, the virtual money indicator flipped to negative. That's why your house has lost 50% of its value.

                  The m

                  • Okay, but take your argument a step or two further: but 2!=3, therefore
                    2/0 != 3/0, therefore

                    2/0 is a different "infinity" than 3/0, which makes sense: 2/n never equals 3/n, so why should 2/0 == 3/0?
                    • by Daimanta (1140543)

                      Actually, that isn't neccesairy. Landing at an inconsistency with assumed premisses and a correct system, disproves the premisses. The second you land at 2=3 is the second that you know that dividing by zero is nonsense.

                    • Think of it this way, though: in calculus, you can calculate limits, some of which go to infinity. Therefore, infinity is a useful concept. Take the limit as n approaches zero from the positive side:

                      lim n -> +0 (3/n - 2/n)

                      The limit goes to infinity. However, if you try to compute the value at n = 0, both terms are infinite - and subtracting them gives positive infinity, which indicates that they aren't the same (or it would equal zero).

                    • But the actual premise in the argument is technically that 2/0 equals 3/0, not that dividing by zero is nonsense.
                    • by Daimanta (1140543)

                      The premisse is that a/0 equals infinity. That leads to 2/0=3/0 and that leads to the conclusion that 2=3 which is absurd. That's proof that you cannot divide by zero.

                  • >>>2/0=3/0
                    >>>Multiply by zero:
                    >>>2=3

                    Bzzz. 2/0 = 3/0 = infinity. Infinity * 0 == 0. This reminds me of a neat little trick my math teacher played in 11th grade. 0.9999 (to infinity) == 1.

                    1/3 = 0.333 (to infinity)
                    2/3 = 0.666 (to infinity)
                    ===========
                    1 = 0.999 (to infinity)

                    • Actually, there's an even cooler way of showing that 0.9999... = 1.

                      0.9999... * 10 = 9.9999...
                      9.9999... - 0.9999... = 9
                      in general, (n*10)-n = 9*n, so
                      9 * (0.9999...) = 9
                      0.9999... = 1

                  • by fractoid (1076465)
                    See my post above; if we abstract out 1/0 as a special constant (again, I've chosen to call it 'fuck') then it works.

                    2/0 = 2 * 1/0 = 2 * fuck
                    3/0 = 3 * fuck
                    2/0 != 3/0.
                    So there. :P
                    (Yes, I'm aware that this is as mathematically rigorous as a duck-shaped pinata.)
                • by klaun (236494)

                  Just explain it like this... 1/1 = 1, 1/0.5 = 2, 1/0.1 = 10, 1/0.01 = 100, 1/0.001 = 1000, 1/0 = infinity. You CAN divide by zero, but the answer isn't useful for finite math.

                  Except that isn't accurate. 1/0 != infinity. Does infinity * 0 = 1? No... of course not. Since multiplication is the inverse function of division... your statement is incorrect. Now if you'd written lim(x->0) of [1/x] is infinity, you'd have been right.

                  x/0 for any non-zero number is simply undefined. Its not useful for tran

                  • Except that isn't accurate. 1/0 != infinity. Does infinity * 0 = 1? No...

                    ...and that's why they say "infinity is not a number". A value can be infinite, but it doesn't actually equal infinity, because no such number exists.

                    • by klaun (236494)

                      Except that isn't accurate. 1/0 != infinity. Does infinity * 0 = 1? No...

                      ...and that's why they say "infinity is not a number". A value can be infinite, but it doesn't actually equal infinity, because no such number exists.

                      Well, I'm not sure who you are identifying as saying that infinity is not a number, but unfortunately they are not correct. You're statement that two infinite values may not be equal certainly has validity to it. Transfinite mathematics and hyperreals deal with rigorous analysis of s

                    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinity [wikipedia.org]

                      In mathematics, "infinity" is often used in contexts where it is treated as if it were a number (i.e., it counts or measures things: "an infinite number of terms") but it is a different type of "number" from the real numbers.

                    • by klaun (236494)

                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinity [wikipedia.org] In mathematics, "infinity" is often used in contexts where it is treated as if it were a number (i.e., it counts or measures things: "an infinite number of terms") but it is a different type of "number" from the real numbers.

                      I never said it was a real number. Although whether it is or not kind of depends on what kind of mathematics you are doing.

                      Note in this context the phrase "real numbers" is referring to the set of Reals, as opposed to say the set of Imaginari

                    • It said "treated as if it were a number". It put "number" in quotes. Both of those indicate that it's not really a number, and the use of "real number" is a regrettable choice of words in attempting to express that.

                    • Look, I'm not really contradicting you. Infinity is sometimes treated as if it were a number - it's sometimes convenient and useful to do so. However, that doesn't make it a number. So you're one of the people who's used to treating it as if it were a number - naturally you'll take exception when someone says it isn't.

                    • by klaun (236494)

                      Look, I'm not really contradicting you. Infinity is sometimes treated as if it were a number - it's sometimes convenient and useful to do so. However, that doesn't make it a number. So you're one of the people who's used to treating it as if it were a number - naturally you'll take exception when someone says it isn't.

                      Infinity is a number, full stop. What makes something a number? What is a number? A count of something? A quantity of something? That concept that expresses the count or quantity of some

                    • "The count" doesn't exist if it is infinite. It's uncountable. It doesn't equal infinity; it's infinite. There's a subtle difference.

                    • by klaun (236494)

                      "The count" doesn't exist if it is infinite. It's uncountable. It doesn't equal infinity; it's infinite. There's a subtle difference.

                      I'm afraid you are digging yourself deeper here. I actually made a mistake in my previous post asking for a count of Real Numbers since the Reals are not countable... However, infinite sets in general are not uncountable. The other example, for counts that I gave, the integers are certainly a countable set. Rationals are another infinite and countable set. Wikipedia is yo

                    • Ok, I didn't realise "countable" could include a discrete infinite series. I was under the impression that it could only be used to refer to a finite set, part (1) from its definition in the Wiki...

                      A set is countable if: (1) it is finite, or (2) it has the same cardinality (size) as the set of natural numbers.

                      Anyway, moving on...

                      what is 3? ... the collection of sets that contain 3 elements.

                      That's not a number, that's a concept. "3" is a number. "Sets having 3 elements" is a concept - a rule which enables us to categorise something as "fits" or "doesn't fit". Thus, 3 can be thought of as either a number or a concept.

                      "Infinity" is not a number; as a number, it doesn't exist. Only

                • Considering that a lot of adults give the wrong answer when asked to divide 6 by 1/2, I'd recommend finding a different way to explain it to an 8-year-old.

              • Re:magnetic (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @05:48PM (#27524965) Journal

                Sigh. I showed her divide by zero error on a calculator.

                You explained to her she shouldn't do something because a machine can't do it either?

                I'd use the good-old-pie-fractions example. Take a pie. Divide it into two parts, explain that's dividing by two.
                Cut it again, so it's four parts. Explain you divided it by four.
                Cut twice more and ask how many pieces there are (that's how many you divided by).
                Now, give her the knife, and ask her to divide it into zero parts. Explain that's why she can't divide by zero... no matter how many times you cut, no matter how you approach it, you cannot end up with zero parts.

                Then, eat the pie and play fractions games with each piece.

                • by geekoid (135745)

                  meh, he is going to ART school. I'm not even sure how he got here~

                  • by Gilmoure (18428)

                    Actually, I dropped out of art school in '93. Turned out that, while I had no great design skills, I was great at fixing Macs in the computer lab. And at the print shops where student were always bringing in effed up layouts with missing font files. Next thing I knew, people were calling me, offering booze and money to get the shiny out of the machine or show them out to make Photoshop or Illustrator do what they wanted. Now, still with no degree, I'm a senior Macintosh analyst at a national lab that my cra

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by clone53421 (1310749)

                If there are 6 apples, and everyone gets two, how many people can share the apples? Three people. What if they can only have one apple? Then six people can share the apples.

                What if nobody can have any of the apples? Then nobody can share the apples, but the apples don't get eaten. That's why you can't divide by zero: the apples never get used up. In fact, you could have a hundred people, or a thousand, or as many as you want, and every one of them won't get an apple... and there will still be six apples.

            • by steelfood (895457)

              The easy way to do that would've been to have given her a funny name. For example:

              Alison Wanda or Ivana Mandy or just Siloh.

              It would be even better if you could make it work with your surname, the way Jack Abramoff works well.

              • It would be even better if you could make it work with your surname, the way Jack Abramoff works well.

                I'm one step ahead of you there, her name is Mindy. Mindy Flayer.

          •   Why don't you get a start on that. Let us know when you're done, and we'll peer review it ;)

            SB

          • by geekoid (135745)

            "...illuminate ..."
            you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means~

            • 2 a: to make clear : ELUCIDATE b: to bring to the fore : HIGHLIGHT <a crisis can illuminate how interdependent we all are>

              ...what?

    • It's obvious that suction wouldn't work in space, but why would magnetic stickers fail?

      Who said they would fail? An additional way to stick one thing to another is still going to be useful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by clone53421 (1310749)

        I know it's slashdot and we don't read TFA here, but at least read TFS.

        it is also developing reusable attaching systems for astronauts to use where magnetic and suction systems generally fail

        • Hey man, I read the whole one line post I was responding to. If that's not enough to comment on something, I don't even know where /. is headed.

          Seriously: I do feel dumb about that now, sorry to all of you who were confused there.

  • Useful Lifespan? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    A "sticky-footed climbing robot destined to explore Mars" makes it sound like this thing may see use on the ground. I'm curious how they plan to deal with dust and debris collecting on the pads.

    They say "dirt particles can easily fall off the edge of the fibres", but I don't understand how a solution like this can be selective about what it sticks to.

  • What next? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ibag (101144) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @04:28PM (#27523871)

    A spider monkey inspired car horn set for space? A webkit inspired grapling hook set for space? Oh, the joy of open source browsers.

  • by olddotter (638430) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @04:28PM (#27523883) Homepage
    For those that need a monetary reason to save the environment, this is a poster child. We can learn a huge amount of useful things from studying nature. If that nature is allowed to die out, then we will miss out on the hidden knowledge.
    • yea, that's what I was doing. Studying nature. Hidden knowledge and all that. Until they closed the curtains.

  • Medical? (Score:3, Funny)

    by SnarfQuest (469614) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @04:30PM (#27523901)

    What sort of medical applications make use of post-it notes? Maybe it will hold an incision closed, but that floppy tag of paper is just too much for most prople to ignore.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So easy, a caveman could do it!

  • You lucky motherfucker.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @04:45PM (#27524085) Homepage

    Ever since some years ago we read on /. that they had discovered the secret behind geckos' amazing abilities, I've been waiting for practical applications of this in the form of gecko tape and the soon-to-follow gecko shoes and gloves.

    Glad to see that they'll be using it in space soon, guess that means it'll only be a matter of time before I can get it at Home Depot. In the meantime, whenever I want something stuck to the wall, I just tie it to a gecko and then let the gecko do the sticking for me. Tough part is keeping them in one place, but ironically a little traditional glue does the job nicely. The other problem is I can only put things out of the reach of my cat...

    • Tough part is keeping them in one place, but ironically a little traditional glue does the job nicely.

      In which case, you're using glue anyway.

      I find it's much simpler to use a staple gun to affix the geckos to the wall.

      I use the staples made for insulated wire, otherwise the staples go right through 'em and all you have to show for it is a perforated gecko twitching on the floor... which is the same result as within-reach-of-the-kitty gluing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Now where's the Webkit-Inspired adhesive?

      Doesn't Webkit beat Gecko?

    • by Tmack (593755)

      Ever since some years ago we read on /. that they had discovered the secret behind geckos' amazing abilities, I've been waiting for practical applications of this in the form of gecko tape and the soon-to-follow gecko shoes and gloves.

      ...

      Not to detract too much from your post... but Ive been using gecko tape and gloves for a few years now though probably not as advanced as the stuff in TFA:

      Greptile [3m.com] is 3m's name for it. I use handlebar tape made with it on my road bike, and before it went out of production (Seems to be only used for golf equipment and Nascar steering wheels these days), had the gloves to match. With the gloves on the tape it was like a weak velcro. Even with normal gloves it has more grip than normal tape.

      Tm

    • by kris_lang (466170)

      Self-Cleaning Gecko Adhesive (Sep. 2008)

      First synthetic gecko adhesive which cleans itself during use, as the natural gecko does. After contamination by microspheres, the microfiber array loses all adhesion strength. After repeated contacts with clean glass, the microspheres are shed, and the fibers recover 30% of their original adhesion. The fibers have a non-adhesive default state, which encourages particle removal during contact.
      Contact Self-Cleaning of Synthetic Gecko Adhesive, Langmuir 2008

    • by Thing 1 (178996)

      I've been waiting for practical applications of this in the form of gecko tape and the soon-to-follow gecko shoes and gloves.

      Interesting! I foresee height becoming less of a barrier, and barbed wire sales increasing.

    • Ron Fearing's lab at UC Berkeley also does work on biomimetic materials such as synthetic gecko pads:

      biomimetics lab [berkeley.edu]

      has a link to their self-cleaning gecko adhesive material [berkeley.edu] on the front page.

      Sorry about the prior post.

      Self-Cleaning Gecko Adhesive (Sep. 2008)

      First synthetic gecko adhesive which cleans itself during use, as the natural gecko does. After contamination by microspheres, the microfiber array loses all adhesion strength. After repeated contacts with clean glass, the microspheres are shed, and

  • Bat adhesive, Gecko adhesive found to stick well in space.

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @04:53PM (#27524179)
    The next innovation required would be Gecko tongue to clean the dirty feet, else it won't go far.
    • by Spatial (1235392)
      Someone posted above that their feet are self-cleaning. He cited Wikipedia which cites this. [pnas.org]

      If true, it could be a very useful material.
  • A research group at his university, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is engineering a spider-like, sticky-footed climbing robot destined to explore Mars

    Aha! David Bowie was just a visionary...The Spiders of Mars are on their way!

16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Serling

Working...