Geckos are not just good at selling car insurance. They also hold clues in their tiny little toes about how adhesion works in a wet environment. Researchers at the University of Akron, located in Akron, Ohio have been studying these remarkable creatures and particularly their ability to stick to just about any surface. A gecko feet adhesive could possibly revolutionize bandages.
Alyssa Stark, a doctoral candidate in UA’s Integrated Bioscience Program and research team leader, Timothy Sullivan, who received his bachelor’s degree in biology in May, and Peter Niewiarowski, UA professor of biology and integrated bioscience worked together to publish this study in The Journal of Experimental Biology. Stark points out in the study that geckos seem to be equally happy scampering around the wet tropics as they are on a dry wall. Previous studies have shown that these little guys have microscopic hair-like structures on their feet that stick just close enough to a surface to produce a van der Waals attraction. What Stark and her colleagues really wanted to do was study “ how the lizards cope on surfaces in their natural habitat”. Check out the embedded YouTube video to see how they went about measuring the strength of the gecko’s grip in varying conditions.
Gecko Inspires New Adhesive
UA department of polymer science chair and Morton professor of polymer science, Ali Dhinojwala, said,”We’re gathering many clues about how geckos interact with wet surfaces and this gives us ideas of how to design adhesives that work under water…Nature gives us a certain set of rules that point us in the right direction. They help us understand limitations and how to manipulate materials.”
Dhinojwala’s team has already been able to develop a dry adhesive based on the research previously done on the tiny hairs on the gecko’s toes. In fact, they were able to use carbon nanotubes that out performs its gecko muse. This new research now gives them insight into how the gecko’s natural adhesion works in a wet environment and what its limits are. Next, the UA team plans to look at grasping and releasing mechanisms for instance, to better understand how the geckos can hang on to trees during a rain storm. For more information, visit the University of Akron online at http://www.uakron.edu.