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Microfabricated adhesive mimicking gecko foot-hair

Abstract

The amazing climbing ability of geckos has attracted the interest of philosophers and scientists alike for centuries1,2,3. However, only in the past few years2,3 has progress been made in understanding the mechanism behind this ability, which relies on submicrometre keratin hairs covering the soles of geckos. Each hair produces a miniscule force ≈10−7 N (due to van der Waals and/or capillary interactions) but millions of hairs acting together create a formidable adhesion of ≈10 N cm−2: sufficient to keep geckos firmly on their feet, even when upside down on a glass ceiling. It is very tempting3 to create a new type of adhesive by mimicking the gecko mechanism. Here we report on a prototype of such 'gecko tape' made by microfabrication of dense arrays of flexible plastic pillars, the geometry of which is optimized to ensure their collective adhesion. Our approach shows a way to manufacture self-cleaning, re-attachable dry adhesives, although problems related to their durability and mass production are yet to be resolved.

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Figure 1: Scanning electron micrographs of microfabricated polyimide hairs.
Figure 2: The perpendicular force F required for detaching various samples of polyimide hairs from a silicon surface.
Figure 3: The adhesive force F exhibited by 'gecko tape' as a function of contact area S.
Figure 4: Re-attachable dry adhesives based on the gecko principle can find a variety of applications.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) UK. S.V.D., A.A.Z. and S.Y.S. also acknowledge the financial support of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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Correspondence to A. K. Geim.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Geim, A., Dubonos, S., Grigorieva, I. et al. Microfabricated adhesive mimicking gecko foot-hair. Nature Mater 2, 461–463 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat917

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