Tiny Tech #13: The Feat of Sticky Little Feet

Today from the world of Tiny Tech:

Consider the gecko, a fascinating lizard.  Geckos have the amazing ability to walk upside down even on the undersides of smooth surfaces such as glass.  This ability is due to the millions of tiny flexible hairs on the undersides of their feet. These microscopic hairs have flat tips that give gecko’s feet a very large total surface area.  And because atoms naturally attract one another, there is a large attractive force between the atoms in the gecko’s feet and the atoms in the surface it wants to stick to.  But how do geckos “unstick” themselves when they want to move? Well, their toes bend in such a way that they actually peel their feet off from surfaces! 

Geckos’ feet have inspired scientists to invent new adhesives that can be used in harsh environmental conditions...even in outer space.  Some of these adhesives use an array of carbon nanotubes or silicon nanowires, which simulate the hairs on the gecko’s feet.  Although these new adhesives work pretty well, they are still not as self-cleaning and resilient as geckos’ feet. 

But you can be sure that researchers are working hard to make the best of a sticky situation!

Tiny Tech is made possible by the National Science Foundation and WUFT.  To learn more about Tiny Tech, go to tinytechradio.org.

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