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Robust scalable reversible strong adhesion by gecko-inspired composite design

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Abstract

Bio-inspired reversible adhesion has significant potential in many fields requiring flexible grasping and manipulation, such as precision manufacturing, flexible electronics, and intelligent robotics. Despite extensive efforts for adhesive synthesis with a high adhesion strength at the interface, an effective strategy to actively tune the adhesion capacity between a strong attachment and an easy detachment spanning a wide range of scales has been lagged. Herein, we report a novel soft-hard-soft sandwiched composite design to achieve a stable, repeatable, and reversible strong adhesion with an easily scalable performance for a large area ranging from ∼1.5 to 150 cm2 and a high load ranging from ∼20 to 700 N. Theoretical studies indicate that this design can enhance the uniform loading for attachment by restraining the lateral shrinkage in the natural state, while facilitate a flexible peeling for detachment by causing stress concentration in the bending state, yielding an adhesion switching ratio of ∼54 and a switching time of less than ∼0.2 s. This design is further integrated into versatile grippers, climbing robots, and human climbing grippers, demonstrating its robust scalability for a reversible strong adhesion. This biomimetic design bridges microscopic interfacial interactions with macroscopic controllable applications, providing a universal and feasible paradigm for adhesion design and control.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51425502). We dedicate this article to our great advisor, colleague, and dear friend Jacob N. ISRAELACHVILI, who passed away before we finish this work. We gratefully thank him for his contribution and guidance to the research of surface and interface, long-time collaboration, and guidance for us in the field of intermolecular and surface forces. Thanks to Prof. Jinyou SHAO at the State Key Laboratory for Manufacturing Systems Engineering of Xi’an Jiaotong University, China, for providing us some mushroom-shaped dry adhesive surface samples.

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Correspondence to Liran Ma or Yu Tian.

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Xiaosong LI. He received his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Beijing Insititute of Technology, China. Now he is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tsinghua University, China. His current research interest is biomimetic adhesion and dexterous grasping technology.

Pengpeng BAI. He received his Ph.D. degree at China University of Petroleum (Beijing), in 2017, majoring in materials science and engineering. Following a postdoctoral period at the State Key Laboratory of Tribology in Tsinghua University, he is now working as an associate researcher in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tsinghua University. He has published over 40 papers. His research interests include the interface science and technology, high temperature liquid lubricant, corrosion protection mechanism of metals, etc.

Xinxin LI. He received his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China. Now he is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tsinghua University, China. His current research focuses on friction and bionic mechanisms.

Lvzhou LI. He received his B.S. degree in electrical engineering and its automation from Jiangsu University, China. Now he is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tsinghua University, China. His current research interest is adhesive soft robotics and variable stiffness systems.

Yuanzhe LI. He received his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Xi’an Jiaotong University. Now he is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tsinghua University, China. His current research focuses on intermolecular force and tactile friction.

Hongyu LU. He received his B.S. degree from Beihang University in 2015, and received his Ph.D. degree from Tsinghua University in 2020. His research interest includes microforce measurement and biomimetic. Now he is working in Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.

Liran MA. She received her B.S. degree from Tsinghua University in 2005, and received her Ph.D. degree from Tsinghua University in 2010. Following a postdoctoral period at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, she is now working as an associate professor in the State Key Laboratory of Tribology, Tsinghua University. Her interests in tribology have ranged from aqueous lubrication and hydration lubrication to the liquid/solid interface properties. She has published over 50 papers. Her honors include the Hinwin Doctoral Dissertation Award (2011), the Maple Leaf Award for Outstanding Young Tribologists (2015), and Chang Jiang Scholars Program-Young Professor Award (2015).

Yonggang MENG. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Kumamoto University, Japan, in 1986 and 1989, respectively. He joined the State Key Laboratory of Tribology at Tsinghua University in 1990. His current position is a professor, and his research areas cover the tribology of MEMS and hard disk drives, active control of friction and interfacial phenomena, and nanomanufacturing.

Yu TIAN. He is a professor and director of the State Key Laboratory of Tribology at Tsinghua University of China. He gained his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering at Tsinghua University in 1998 and 2002, respectively. Subsequently, he joined the State Key Laboratory of Tribology. He was a postdoc at the University of California, Santa Barbara with professor Jacob ISRAELACHVILI from 2005 to 2007. His research interest is the science and technology at the interface of physics, materials, engineering, and biology to understand the physical laws of adhesion, friction, and rheology to implement technological inventions to benefit the society. He has published over 150 peer-reviewed journal papers. He has received the Youth Science and Technology Award of China (2016), the Yangtze River Scholars Distinguished Professor (2015–2019), the National Natural Science Foundation for Distinguished Young Scientists of China (2014), the Wen Shizhu-Maple Award-Young Scholar Award (2012), the Young Scholar Achievement Award of the Society of Mechanical Engineering of China (2011), Outstanding Young Scholar Award of the Chinese Tribology Institute (2009), and the National Excellent Doctoral Dissertation of China (2004).

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Li, X., Bai, P., Li, X. et al. Robust scalable reversible strong adhesion by gecko-inspired composite design. Friction 10, 1192–1207 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40544-021-0522-4

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Keywords

  • biomimetic design
  • reversible adhesion
  • composite
  • cross-scale
  • robotics