Duncan Irschick and Al Crosby have been working together at UMass Amherst to develop Geckskin. Using a gecko’s foot for inspiration, Geckskin can hold considerable weight while not leaving residue or marks behind like conventional tape or nails would.
For years, biologist have been amazed by the power of gecko feet, which allow these 5-ounce lizards to produce an adhesive force roughly equivalent to carrying nine pounds up a wall without slipping. Now, a team of polymer scientists and a biologist at UMass Amherst have discovered exactly how the gecko does it, leading them to invent Geckskin, a device that can hold 700 pounds on a smooth wall.
Making the Geckskin out of common materials allows the scientists to keep costs low and affordable. The scientists explain their material in the video:
What it does, is it just drapes easily over the surface…and it can hold 700 pounds on an index sized pad…then with a simple twist of the pad, it peels off with zero force and it doesn’t mark the surface at all. And one of the most important things is you can do this over and over again.
Geckos, spiders and small animals are the inspiration behind the Z-Man program. These creatures scale vertical surfaces using unique systems that exhibit strong reversible adhesion via van der Waals forces or hook-into-surface asperities. Z-Man seeks to build synthetic versions of these biological systems, optimize them for efficient human climbing and use them as novel climbing aids.
While DARPA may envision Spider-Man suits and wall-scaling robots, average consumers will immediately see a fast and easy way to mount large televisions and household appliances. Geckskin has already begun winning sustainability challenges and receiving press coverage. Consider this factoid, Geckskin can be used hundreds of times without deterioration of adhesion and the material can be washed. Geckskin will affect the fundamental ways engineers and consumers think about manufacturing, adhesion, and reuse.