A type of dry glue based on the sticky limbs of geckos has been developed, far exceeding the capabilities of the gravity-defying lizards, according to a study published on Thursday.
The new adhesive is three times more powerful than previous gecko-inspired glues, and ten times more powerful than the geckos themselves, said researchers.
Scientists have long been intrigued by the incredible abilities of geckos, the small lizards that can scurry up walls and cling to ceilings by their toes, and have sought to unravel their secrets.
It was discovered the lizards owe their amazing stickiness to microscopic elastic hairs in their toes, allowing them to support surprisingly heavy loads.
Researchers from four American laboratories worked on the puzzle, including the Air Force Research Laboratory near Dayton, Ohio, and found they could reproduce nature’s Spiderman-like abilities with specially aligned carbon nanotubes that mimic the tiny hairs.
The design maximises the effect of atomic-scale attractive forces, known as Van der Waals forces, said Zhong Lin Wang at the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering.
The forces are named after their discoverer, Dutch physicist Johannes Diderik van der Waals, Nobel laureate for physics in 1910.
The glue’s design can be thought of as tubes arranged as a pile of spaghetti, or a jungle of vines, said Wang.
When the contact point for the glue is narrow, the strong quantum forces act directly at a point, which allows the glue to “truly mimic what the gecko does naturally,” said Wang.
In short: very, very powerful glue.