Carbon Nanotube Gecko Grippers

Posted 16 Aug 2005 at 16:46 UTC by steve Share This

It was discovered a few years ago that Geckos are able to walk on walls and ceilings where even insects can't thanks to natural nanotech grippers on the pads of their feet that take advantage of atomic van der Waals bonding forces. Why is this a big deal? Because it "requires minimal attachment force, leaves no residue, is directional, detaches without measurable forces, is self-cleaning, and works underwater, in a vacuum, and on nearly every surface material and profile". It's also strong. The foot pad surface area of a typical Gecko has a theoretical weight lifting limit of over 90lbs (not bad for a 100 gram gecko!). This would a be handy technology to have on robots, vehicles, adhesive tape, and even clothes - a person wearing a suit made of this stuff could climb walls like Spiderman. Researchers have been racing to duplicate the technology with funding from DARPA and other agencies. Now the University of Akron reports they've succeeded. Using a $400,000 NFS grant they were able to create a "carpet" of carbon nanotubes that provides 200 times the gripping power of gecko feet. For the details, see the researcher's paper, Synthetic gecko foot-hair from multi-walled carbon nanotubes (PDF format). We first reported on an attempt to duplicate Gecko sticky feet for robotics applications back in 2001.

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