Gecko-inspired sticky tape

21 Feb 2012

Polymer scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have taken inspiration from the way a gecko sticks to walls to develop an adhesive material that can hold up a 42-inch television.

The work of Alfred Crosby and his team was reported New Scientist this week and the extremely sticky tape, which mimics the mechanism used by a gecko’s feet, has been demonstrated supporting a television.

The television in the demonstration weighs 18Kgs and the new material can withstand up to 300Kg of force on a smooth surface like glass, remarkable gripping power that derives from the a combination of approaches rather than simply replicating the micro-hairs on a gecko’s foot.

The researcher’s approach considered the role tendons, bones and skin play in adhesion and led to the device seen in the video being designed with a silicone adhesive pad attached to the middle of a stiff fabric, mimicking a tendon. The device acts as a joint and allows for flexibility.

The design shows great potential as, unlike previous research that focused on mimicking micro-hairs only, the technology can be scaled up. Another advantage is that it can be reused without leaving a mark after removal.

As the device’s adhesive pad uses polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a material already in wide use (it is a component in Silly Putty, contact lenses and many other products), the adhesive could become available quickly.

Further information

New Scientist: Gecko-like tape holds up 42-inch TV
Nature Materials: Microfabricated adhesive mimicking gecko foot-hair
Inspired by Gecko Feet, UMass Amherst Scientists Invent Super-Adhesive Material