Gecko-inspired adhesive enables people to scale buildings

Gecko-inspired adhesive enables people to scale buildings

Researchers at Stanford have invented a gecko-inspired climbing system that may enable the average Joe to scale walls like Spider-Man. The device, developed by engineer Mark Cutkosky and his team, consists of two hand-sized sticky-pads and foot platforms that are attached by cables. Researcher Elliot Hawkes demonstrated the device’s effectiveness by climbing a vertical glass wall. The team’s findings were published Nov. 19 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

“It’s kind of a magical feeling, because it feels like somehow you’ve hooked onto glass,” Hawkes, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, told “That’s not really possible, so it feels really crazy.”

Known for their sticky feet, geckos are able to scale walls and ceilings using setae, which are microscopic bristles that generate an electronic force between a surface and the lizard’s toes. This lets a gecko to stick and unstick its feet as it shifts its weight on a surface. Scientists have been working with gecko-based adhesives for over a decade, but it wasn’t until now that they have been able to develop the synthetic material needed to support a human’s weight.

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