really sticky tape invented

Only relatively recently have scientists discovered the secret behind the gecko’s extraordinary ability to hang from a glass ceiling by a single toe: its feet are covered by millions of tiny hairs, each of which act together to provide the animal with amazing adhesive force. Now Andre Geim from the University of Manchester in England and his colleagues reported online this month in Nature Materials that they have mimicked nature and come up with a synthetic equivalent, a re-usable dry adhesive they call gecko tape. The material is made up of millions of miniscule artificial hairs, each less than two microns high, attached to a soft, flexible backing. The engineering challenge was, the researchers state, “non-trivial.” The hairs had to be sufficiently flexible to attach to uneven surfaces, yet strong enough not to break, curl, or bunch together. The authors calculate that a palm-sized portion of the stuff could suspend a human from a ceiling. So far, the research team has been able to fabricate less than a postage-stamp-sized piece of the tape, due to the difficulty and expense of the manufacturing process.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 6/10/2003.
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