Cornell University engineers have developed a switch that uses water droplets to create adhesive bonds nearly as strong as aluminum.


The new switch, inspired by a mechanism found in palm beetles, can work by itself on the scale of a micron — a millionth of a meter. The switches can be combined in arrays for larger applications, such as powerful adhesive bonding.



Like the transistor, whose varied uses became apparent only following its invention, the uses of the new switch are not yet understood, researchers said, but noted the switch’s simplicity, smallness and speed have enormous potential.



Almost all the greatest technological advances have depended on switches, and this is a switch that is fast and can be scaled down, said Paul Steen, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Cornell and co-author of the study.



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