Gecko feet inspire dust-removing micropillars

Materials World magazine
,
10 May 2016

Taking inspiration from the feet of the Gecko, researchers at Yale University, USA, have illustrated how polymeric micropillars can be used to remove dust or contaminate from a solid surface without causing damage.

Published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, the study shows for the first time that polymeric microfibrils with controlled interfacial and geometrical properties can remove contaminated particles from the substrate. These micropillars, similar to the microscopic columns on a gecko’s foot, develop intimate contact with the surface upon application. Producing strong interfacial contact with the dust, the material detaches the contaminant particles when removed.

The material itself is non-sticky, and has minimal interaction with the solid surface. This quality eliminates absorbed particles, removing any risk of damage to the subject.

The team claim that this research offers a new paradigm for non-destructive cleaning methods, with particular benefit for the maintenance of fine art. The research also holds fundamental significance for the continued development of interfacially active materials and devices.