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  • Stick With Me; You'll Go Places
Jun 2003
MANCHESTER, England, June 3 -- Researchers at the new Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology at the University of Manchester said Monday they have developed a new type of adhesive tape that mimics the feet of geckos.
Researchers have been working on the new adhesive since 2001, after learning the mechanism of geckos' climbing skills from biophysicists. Now they have been able to manufacture self-cleaning, reattachable dry adhesives, and the team said it won’t be long before "Spiderman" gloves-- particularly useful for rock climbers and window cleaners -- are a reality. In addition to a general adhesive, it can be used to move computer chips in a vacuum, pick up small fibers and design novel bandages.
"It’s like Velcro without the need for an opposite," said one researcher.
The new adhesive ("gecko tape") contains billions of tiny plastic fibers, less than a micrometer in diameter, similar to natural hairs covering the soles of geckos (see top photo inset). Close examination with electron microscopes shows they have millions of tiny hairs called setae. A seta is about 100 micrometers long, about the width of two human hairs. Each seta ends with 1,000 even tinier pads at the tip. One seta can lift the weight of an ant. A million setae, which could easily fit onto the area of a dime, could lift a 45-pound child, and a gecko using all of its setae at the same time could support 280 pounds.
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