Gecko Feet—Best Foot Forward
Scientists have long tried to understand how geckos can walk on walls and ceilings,
even on smooth glass. How can a dry foot stick on glass without sticky glue
or suction cups? It wasn’t until the twenty-first century that the gecko’s secret
was finally discovered. Now researchers are hoping to apply these discoveries
The ridged toes of many species of gecko are covered with millions of tiny
hairs called setae, and at the end of each hair is a bundle of tiny strands
called spatulae. These strands, much smaller than a human hair, are so tiny
that individual molecules on the gecko feet are attracted to the individual
molecules on the surface of the glass.
This molecular attraction is called van der Waals forces. Simply put, if the
electrons of two different molecules are thrown out of sync in close contact
to each other, they form a temporary bond.
In the gecko’s case, the bond is also directional, meaning that it sticks in
only one direction. That’s key. The gecko can release the bond simply by lifting
its foot in a different direction. No “unsticking” necessary. (Think of loosening
the hook fastener on a pair of dress slacks. The fastener is not glued down,
so it doesn’t have to be yanked apart. You simply lift it forward.)
So far, scientists have developed “gecko tape,” a dry unidirectional adhesive,
based on the gecko’s remarkable “toe fuzz.” When you pull the tape one direction,
it sticks; but when you pull it another direction, it releases.
But the mechanics of climbing are complex and more challenging to emulate.
Still, researchers at Stanford’s Center for Design Research are working on it.
First they made synthetic setae out of a rubber-like material. Then they put
this material onto a lizard-like robot they called Stickybot. Not to be outdone,
Carnegie Mellon University has developed another robot called the Geckobot.
Though this nanotechnology is still in the early stages of development, who
knows what the future holds? A fully functioning gecko-footed robot would be
of immense value in reaching places too difficult or dangerous for humans.
Thanks to God’s amazing design of gecko feet, we could one day live in a world
where tires grip smooth surfaces, climbing gloves and boots grip rocks, and
even Spider-Man suits are a reality (seriously, the Center for Design Research
is working on a Z-Man suit). But the gecko, with its fantastic ability to scamper
up glass walls and ceilings, still wins by a foot.
https://answersingenesis.org/technology/biomimicry/gecko-feet-best-foot-forward/ This article originally appeared on answersingenesis.org