Gecko-Inspired Adhesive Tape
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A team of researchers from the USA and Germany has succeeded in developing a re-usable adhesive tape inspired by the feet of a gecko.
Geckos’ feet are superior to adhesive tapes in one respect: even after repeated contact with dirt and dust, they perfectly adhere to smooth surfaces. Researchers at KIT and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have now developed the first adhesive tape that not only adheres to a surface as reliably as the toes of a gecko, but also possesses similar self-cleaning properties. Using such a tape, food packaging or bandages, for example, might be opened and closed several times.
Glass Spheres to Simulate Dirt
When the diameter of the spheres exceeded that of the microhairs, the adhesive force disappeared after the first contact (“load”) — as is the case with an ordinary adhesive tape. After eight to ten test cycles, however, the gecko-inspired adhesive tape achieved 80 to 100 percent of its original power again. The researchers believe that this might be developed to become a low-cost alternative to hook and loop fasteners. Possible applications may be in the sports sector, medicine, the automotive industry or aerospace technology.
When the size of the spheres was smaller than the diameter of the microhairs, the researchers succeeded in restoring one third of the original adhesive force only. The perfect gecko-inspired adhesive tape therefore requires fibres in the nanometre range, which are smaller than most dirt particles. The skin folds of the gecko have already been reproduced by wide grooves between narrow rows of hair. They provide enough space for the fine dust to deposit. Tests using real dirt particles of variable shape and size and particles made of various materials are to be carried out in the near future.
The scientists have published their findings in “Interface”, the scientific journal of the Royal Society (DOI: rsif.2013.1205).