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Gecko Feet Inspire Sticky Tape 187

Makarand writes "Geckos have the remarkable ability to climb the most smooth surfaces and hang from glass ceilings with a single toe. Their feet are covered with millions of nanoscopic keratin hairs that can exert an intermolecular force - called van der Waals force - producing an adhesive effect on surfaces they walk on. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have been able to mimic the adhesive ability of Gecko feet with a synthetic material that could find applications in new types of vehicle tires or allowing robots to climb walls. The material is made by using a mould created by a lithographic process and consists of a flexibile and strong substrate covered with 100 million nanoscopic hair each centimetre square. It might take several more years before Gecko tape is made commercially available to the wanna-be Spiderman, but he will have to thank the Gecko for that, not the spider."
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Gecko Feet Inspire Sticky Tape

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  • Cool (Score:5, Funny)

    by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:32AM (#6094165)
    but how exactly do you store thousands of geckos with their backs glued to a roll of plastic ?
    • Re:Cool (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The same way I store all those Jehovah Witness people.
    • Re:Cool (Score:2, Funny)

      by Rick.C ( 626083 )
      Read the package label:

      "Store in a cool dry place."

      I guess you'd have the ask the geckos what's coo'.
  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:33AM (#6094166) Journal
    called van der Waals force

    Decent name. Although, I would have prefered: climb der waals.
  • Geckoman? (Score:5, Funny)

    by CptChipJew ( 301983 ) * <michaelmiller@gmail. c o m> on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:33AM (#6094169) Homepage Journal
    Spiderman sounds way cooler than Geckoman though. I mean, what's Geckoman going to use instead of a web-shooter, his super long tongue shooter? Who would make a comic book character that does such a silly thing. Oh...wait... [pathfinder.com]
  • I actually saw this on TV this morning. I think this is the first time ever that something appeared there before on /. Whats happening.

    But this does sound like seriously cool stuff. You could freak out people with it. Hang on the ceiling and wait for your mum/wife/girlfriend to come home and then jump down. Fun!
    • Re:Wow (Score:1, Funny)

      brings a whole new meaning to hanging about.
    • Likely they picked it up from New Scientist, as it was in there last week...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      When you multiply a radius of a 3D object by 10, you get 100 times bigger area with 1000 times bigger volume and mass.

      Gecko can climb walls and ceilings because it is so small that ratio between touching area and mass is quite large. Humans would need to have huge hands to achieve same kind of ratio.
      • Well, the article says 1kg per square centimetre. Let's say your average geek is about 100kg ;) So to support yourself on one hand, your hand would need to be 100cm^2, or about 10x10 cm. It's not that far out. Maybe you would need to lose some of that belly, or use two hands.
        • damn...I only weigh 140...that means about 64cm^2! One of my hands has about 60cm^2 of surface area...so with both my hands covered, and maybe some on my feet...I could easily crawl around on walls...I don't know how I would release my hand from the wall...pulling woould get tiresome. They need to find a way to "deactivate" them or something...maybe make them with small amounts of iron or something, so that when a strong magnetic field is applied to them...they will all bend or deform to release whatever th
  • They's already Gecko Tape. In multi colours too.
  • But . . . (Score:5, Funny)

    by DrMrLordX ( 559371 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:38AM (#6094182)
    . . . can it help you save on your car insurance?

    Oh wait, that's Geico not . . . uh nevermind
    • Taco Bell dog: Oh great... a talking Gecko...
  • wait wait (Score:5, Funny)

    by lingqi ( 577227 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:40AM (#6094187) Journal
    so you are saying that to become spider-man, i just need a lot of tiny hair in my palms / fingers, right?

    I'll start working on that right now! who can wait that few years before this stuff is commercially available, when you can produce it safely* and natually?

    *safely - wear goggles.
    • Re:wait wait (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tankdilla ( 652987 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:46AM (#6094200) Homepage Journal
      Ever wonder how spiderman can stick to surfaces through his costume? Sticky clothes?

      Also, according to Spiderman the movie, which is in no way an authoritative source, Spiderman had little jagged, blade things that came out of his hand. So when he lays the smackdown on somebody you can bet it leaves a mark.

      • Re:wait wait (Score:3, Interesting)

        There are several explanations given in the comics:

        Earlier comics explained his adhesion abilities based on a sort of static cling, i.e. that his body projected a static electric feild around his skin that extended a few inches in either direction, and when he focused he could control it. This was, of course, because people didn't know how spiders clung to walls at the time, so it was a BS explanation. To put it in context, remember that they gave Spider Man an ESP "Spider sense" despite the fact that
    • Be careful the zinc depletion you suffer while attempting to get hairy palms does not blind you. Also, alternate hands. You dont want to end up with a right arm like Schwartzenegger's and a left arm like Mr Bean's
    • by tankdilla ( 652987 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:57AM (#6094230) Homepage Journal
      I've heard of a way to get hairy palms. It hasn't seemed to work thus far though. Guess it takes a certain level of mastery.
  • Argh! Whenever I read Gecko I feel an instant itch to fire up Regedit...
  • More geckos (Score:3, Informative)

    by raynet ( 51803 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:45AM (#6094197) Homepage

    Same story [cnn.com] reported by CNN and commented here [slashdot.org] :)

  • Bleh (Score:2, Funny)

    by Pinguu ( 677142 )
    It might take several more years before Gecko tape is made commercially available to the wanna-be Spiderman, but he will have to thank the Gecko for that, not the spider."
    Well if you were a wanna-be Spiderman wouldn't you have the spider to thank aswell?
  • It might take several more years before Gecko tape is made commercially available to the wanna-be Spiderman, but he will have to thank the Gecko for that, not the spider.

    Oh I can see it now; 'Gecko-man...Gecko-man...does whatever a Gecko can...'

    No, somehow it doesn't have quite the same ring to it. Oh well.

  • Spiderman (Score:5, Informative)

    by ctid ( 449118 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:47AM (#6094205) Homepage
    There's a nice picture [bbc.co.uk] in this version of the article.

  • Nope (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zog The Undeniable ( 632031 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:49AM (#6094213)
    I just looked under my copy of Mozilla 1.3 and it doesn't appear to have any feet. WTF?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:49AM (#6094215)
    Geckoman, Geckoman
    does whatever a Gecko can
    sticks to wall, any type
    catches thieves just like flies
    look out here comes the Geckoman
  • More on gecko glue... The nature article (below) has cool pictures of gecko feet.

    Aug 2002... "Researchers have created two prototype glues after confirming that geckos owe their amazing ability to scamper across ceilings and cling to polished glass solely to many thousands of tiny, spatula-tipped split hairs on their toes.hese bond weakly with the molecules in any surface on which the lizards run.

    The scientists, based at the University of California at Berkeley, cast two sets of imitation gecko toe hairs. Their mould was a microfilter with which biologists usually remove bacteria from solutions. They then tipped the hairs with silicon rubber or polyester.

    In the lab, both materials adhered as well to most surfaces as the natural wall-crawlers. "

    http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20020826/geck o.html
    "Aug. 27 [2002] -- Research into the gravity-defying acts of geckos, which can scale smooth walls in seconds and support their weight by a single toe, has led to a prototype "gecko glue" that one day may help a small robot walk surfaces in spac"

    Oct 18th, 2002 ... "And if it [mass producing synthetic gecko glue] doesn't, we can harvest setae from geckos as they shed their skin and setae every few months. It's not mass-production, but it would provide plenty of setae for the micro-applications."

  • ....that Mozilla's Gecko has a multitude of uses. ;-)
  • my mozilla sticks so close to my heart um gesh de bork bork bork!
  • Seuss (Score:3, Funny)

    by TummyX ( 84871 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @06:09AM (#6094251)

    100 million nanoscopic hair each centimetre square

    Is it just me or also you? I think you talk like Dr. Seuss too.
  • Gecko tape following up Duck tape,
    there is a pattern here!!
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @06:13AM (#6094262)
    You don't need expensive research or fancy nanohairs : just wear ski boots for a full month without taking them off and we'll guarantee your feet will become sticky enough to climb any smooth surface.
  • by Onnimikki ( 63071 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @06:13AM (#6094263) Homepage

    This work actually originates in Bob Full's [berkeley.edu] Polypedal Lab [berkeley.edu] at Berkeley. Check out this SF Chronicle article [berkeley.edu] published in 2000 to find out a little more.

  • I hate to ask the blindingly obvious, but if you have a roll of this super sticky tape how do you un-roll it? If it is strong enough to stick me to the roof I would have thought that if I exerted enough force to unstick it the ceiling board would come down too. Anything this powerful would be banned before the end of the first week. I can see the fun to be had with a roll of double-sided tape; almost as much fun as the original strength super glue and a telephone handset. Oooh I'm getting all excited now,
    • Peeling (Score:3, Interesting)

      The act of peeling tape is to apply a large force to a small area of the tape, overcomming the adhesion locally.

      A Gecko may well use the same trick.

      Consider this experiment: Paint your hand and plant it flat on a piece of paper. Lift your hand and the paper comes too.

      Try it again but this time peel your hand away palm first then fingers then finger tips. The paper stays on the table.

      This is how Spider Man does it, rent the DVD and use slow motion - It's True!
  • by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @06:22AM (#6094287)
    While I have not studied the domestic gecho, I can already see an application releasing existing things we have from postit notes (you can't really clean them) to velcro. Not to speak of velvet padding based on the gecho material to help anchor something in the event of earthquake... this fall under the catagory of cool beans.

    Presently, with the exception of that 3m postit stuff, the only thing we have close to a reuseable adheasive that I know about is spray glue. Per the instructions on the can you apply, let dry, and it in theory stays sticky. As long as you don't mind running the risk of having green goo stuck to places. Double stick tape is also a current product i've used to mount stuff with the intent of having it removable. It's only a soso solution.

    I'd be hip to a gecho solution.

    • -----------------
      But Geim admits that the current fabrication method does not lend itself easily to mass production of the tape. And a more serious concern is how to make the artificial setae durable enough to be reapplied many times, he adds.

      Unfortuately it doesn't seem like it is re-usable at this point so its current usage would be very limited
  • Check out this video [mcgill.ca] footage to see the gecko in action. (The video is about biomimetic robots, so it's got more than just the gecko research)

  • ...just think of all the research it took to get there. All those gecko amputees, hobbling around with no feet.

    How did you think they found what they were made of? A magnifying glass? Invite a gecko into a scanning electron microscope, and ask it to place it's foot on the sample platform and hold still? They don't make pressure suits that small, anyway.
  • ...obviously this one [bodypainting.co.uk]
  • to clean the "flexibile (sic) and strong substrate covered with 100 million nanoscopic hair each centimetre square."
  • Hmmm. Hydrogen bonds are an order of magnitude stronger [humboldt.edu] than van der Waals IM bonds. One practical effect of the strength of H-bonds is that water is liquid instead of gas at room temperature.

    I wonder if anyone is working on an H-bond version of this stuff. Presumably, you could use 1/30th the material. Makes me wonder if you could space it out more and make it easier to peel off.

    Anyone know if there are critters that use H-bonds for the same function a Gecko uses dipole-dipole stickies? If not, any ide

    • H-bonds can only occur between substances with hydrogen in and even then its only in special cases. They occur in compounds where hydrogen is bonded to either oxygen, nitrogen or flourine. This kind of limits what u can stick to.
  • In the future nerds, geeks, and dweebs of all variety will swear not by the power of duct tape to fix all problems, but gecko tape.
  • Greptile... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @07:51AM (#6094557)
    3M make a tape called 'Greptile" that Pearl Izumi made into a set of matching handlebar tape and cycling glove. Each has lots of microscopic protrusions that make the things stick like crazy to each other - not sure how microscopic, but the ads always had EM photos of the surface. 3M also sells the raw tape. Reviews are great, but it never really caught on. For most cyclists, increased padding is prolly preferred over increased grip - you can always squeeze harder.
  • Nanoscopic?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @07:53AM (#6094562) Homepage Journal
    Why do people have to make up new words when the term 'microscopic' is what we are really talking about. Anything that you can't see with the naked eye is microscopic...Smacks of 'hey let's throw in some high tech sounding buzzword so it looks even cooler than it is' to me.

    Not that it isn't cool. It is. I want my Spider Man gloves!
    • Re:Nanoscopic?? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cybermace5 ( 446439 )
      It is pretty annoying.

      People don't think about what they're writing anymore. It's like they thought "Oooh, microscopic has a micro in it, which means a millionth. So if I say nanoscopic, that means even smaller!"

      When in reality micro- in this context just means small, and -scopic refers to seeing. A much better choice of words would have been nanoscale. A buzzword in itself, but a bit more accurate.
  • I wonder how long the CIA and secret services around the world have been climbing around air vents planting bugs and so on using this stuff.

    CRASH!!! ..... FREEZE ...... [frenzied submit clicking] .... BANG!

    In all seriousness though this could be cool for so many things, walking about in zero g (not as much fun, I know) , professional thieves will love it (they're probably stealing some now). The list just goes on.

  • At last, I sick and tired of being stuck at 5.9
  • or allowing robots to climb walls
    Fudge them! I want to climb the walls!
  • "Bitten by a radioactive gecko, Peter Parker..." Nawww, just doesn't sound right.

    But seriously, the original gecko research [lclark.edu] was done at my old alma mater, Lewis & Clark College. The story of their discovery was covered last summer on Slashdot [slashdot.org] and elsewhere [worldtimzone.com], but the source articles have expired and Lewis & Clark is getting no credit today. Bummer.
  • by MrIcee ( 550834 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @12:31PM (#6096606) Homepage
    Living in hawaii we have plenty house geckos brah. We love our house geckos because they keep our homes insect and spider free. They stay out of the way, up in the ceilings and windows and are very cute and loveable. However, some caveats are in order when dealing with geckos:

    1. Don't confuse gecko eggs for the tasty mouth freshener TicTacs... they look identical (though gecko eggs are just slightly larger) (as an aside note, don't confuse cockroach eggs for unground coffee beans).
    2. Don't "lemon pledge" your fine wood interior walls... I did this and the geckos CAN NOT STICK TO THE WALLS for about 6 months. I unfortunatly killed my entire house gecko population a few years ago due to trying to lemon oil my walls to keep them in good shape. Gecko's couldn't stick. They'd jump up to the wall and slide down. Most of 'em died cause they couldn't get to food. Took about a year to get the population back.
    • by malia8888 ( 646496 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:08PM (#6098254)
      I live in Hawaii ; and, have watched many geckos scamper on the walls. My former husband, a big, burly football coach, loved to try to "tame" our house geckos. He fed them coffee creamer and bits of mashed potato. One day he felt he had succeeded in allaying the fears of one of these timid wall crawlers. One of the big ones was holding his ground and didn't move upon his approach..

      Coach called to me and smiled as he showed me this little creature no longer feared him and held his ground. The more-than-vacant expression seemed to escape my husband. The gecko was dead.

      I laughed too hard. We are divorced.

      • wahahahahahahahahahaha... too funny!!!

        I forgot to add point (3) and (4) to my original post too...

        (3) Always check your toaster for geckos before making toast

        (4) Always check your door jambs before closing doors.

        • (5) Don't let geckos lay eggs in your computer.-(-fried the eggs and our customer's computer when they hatched.)

          As for your (4) Mr. Icee,I have made a few unfortunate- looking gecko bookmarks with my front door. *sigh*

          • Indeed... and I've found eggs simply everywhere. Especially in wall fixtures I'm replacing. Usually I take 'em and carefully transplant them to somewhere safe. It took me 3 years to convince my cat that pulling their tails off was cruel and unusual (though evidently loads of fun).

            BTW, what island you on? Big Island, hilo side here. Always nice to know there are local /.ers :)

  • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @01:23PM (#6097052)
    "Sticky tape" -- Whatever will they think of next?!?

    Seriously, I'm looking at this article and thinking, it could hold x-and-so weight per square centimeter, to release you peel from the side slowly, it loses its stickiness with multiple uses, it's too expensive to make right now and it's a little bit fragile... Just exactly how superior would this be to -- ta dum -- a roll of heavy-grade packing tape? Other than the expense and the fragility of it, it seems to have accomplished basically the same traits.

    Maybe the normal tape leaves behind a film of adhesive, where this doesn't? And this is faster to apply and release -- though only for Geckos so far? The accomplishments and accolades should pile up any minute. (Beat. Beat. Still waiting...)

    I'll take Tape Woman and her sidekick, Post-it Gal, over whoever this Gecko-based hero is -- at least for now.

  • I can't wait 'til they have climbing shoes with "gecko rubber" instead of Stealth rubber. 5.12, here I come!

  • If you made gloves and socks out of this stuff, anyone who could climb a ladder could climb the most technical cliffs on Earth. See Yosimite from a whole new vantage point. Climb up the side of Shiprock. Heck, climb your house. All with no skill.
  • Don't buy it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lux ( 49200 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:31PM (#6098681)

    Geckos are living critters, this stuff isn't. If you base a robot on this stuff, I'm guessing it will work for a day, then fall off the ceiling when the fibers are worn down. Keratin is the big clue there. It's the same protein that's in our fingernails.
  • From now on, when ever I want to know something about gecko feet [slashdot.org], I'm coming to Slashdot. Maybe this should be a category. ;-) (perhaps along with the various stories such as this one [slashdot.org] prophesying the coming of the übermice [slashdot.org].

    Unfortunately, none of the links work anymore... but if I recall correctly, one of the articles speculated about using the discovery for this kind of thing. So it's cool to see this actually pan out. Of course, they also speculated about armies of fire-fighting robot geckos...

In 1869 the waffle iron was invented for people who had wrinkled waffles.