Taking a cue from Ma Nature, scientists have unveiled a new adhesive tape that is both surprisingly strong and can be reused thousands of times.
If there are two things a gecko does incredibly well, it’s “offer cut-rate deals on auto insurance” and “stick to things it has no business sticking to.” Have you ever seen one of those things in the wild? There is no way a lizard should be able to sprint across a ceiling, and yet these lil’ green fellas spend hours clinging to anything and everything in a cruel reptilian mockery of Isaac Newton.
Dark magic? According to the universal wet blanket that is science, no. The gecko gets its physics-defying climbing skills from the millions of tiny hairs covering its feet. Dubbed “setae,” these hairs — or, specifically, the molecules within them — are attracted to the molecules in whatever the gecko touches. Normally this attraction is rather weak, but since the gecko has so many setae and the hairs are designed to splay out on contact (massively increasing the foot’s total surface area) the force of attraction becomes more than enough to support the lizard’s body weight.
Seeing this phenomenon, a group of researchers at the University of Kiel crafted a flat silicone tape likewise covered in millions of setae. The result is an adhesive that is twice as strong as standard Scotch tape, that can be reused thousands of times, leaves no residue and even functions underwater.
Need proof of this new tape’s powers? That image embedded above is of one of the researchers hanging, one-handed, from the ceiling, secured only by the adhesive powers of the new invention.
Given their success, the research team is now looking into swiping more design ideas from the natural world. Beetle wing coverings and snakeskin have been mentioned specifically by the team, though how exactly they hope to adapt those structures to useful items remains to be seen.
And by “remains to be seen,” I mean “let’s speculate wildly.” The best I can come up with is “horrifying Serpentor cosplay,” so hopefully you all can do better.