|Photo: Steve Evans|
For now, this adhesive material only exists in a laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. At the APS March Meeting I talk to Michael Bartlett, a graduate student who worked on the new material (and who says it is ready for market). Bartlett explained the physics that went into this sticky stuff, as well as the biology: it was largely inspired by the adhesive toe pads of geckos.
Geckos are the largest animals in nature with an adhesive structure that can support their entire body weight. The gecko's toe pads can stick to most surfaces, but like the new material by the UMass group, they don't leave behind any sticky residue: the adhesive ability of the gecko is entirely mechanical. Scientists have successfully created materials that imitate the gecko toe pads (which contain very tiny, hair-like structures), but they only work for very loads of about 1 pound. The UMass group has created a material based on that same gecko adhesion structure, but which can scale up to larger surface areas and significantly heavier objects.
Tune in to the podcast to learn how the group solved this puzzle and created this awesome new material. You can find us on the Physics Central website and on iTunes.