A new material covered with nanoscopic hairs that mimic those found on geckos’ feet could allow people to walk up to sheer surfaces and across ceilings, say researchers.

Andre Geim and colleagues at the UK’s Manchester University say covering a person’s hand with the material would be enough to let them stick to the ceiling. The tape could be detached from the surface by simply peeling it slowly away from one side.

Geckos can climb even the most slippery surface with ease and hang from glass using a single toe. The secret behind this extraordinary climbing skill lies with millions of tiny keratin hairs – called setae – on the surface of each foot. An intermolecular phenomenon known as van der Waals force is exerted by each of these hairs. Although the force is individually miniscule, the millions of hairs collectively produce a powerful adhesive effect.

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