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Biomimicry clips: Gecko Tape and Beetle Tape
Jeremy Faludi, 1 Dec 06
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Super-adhesives that imitate Gecko feet have been in the lab for some time; now super-adhesives mimicking beetle feet are also being developed.

We've talked before about Gecko-stick tape, a nano-textured material that could someday not only replace glue, but replace nails and screws. First researched and prototyped in the US, it looks like the Brits have pulled ahead and made macro-size sheets of the material. The BBC reported months ago that BAE Systems has made "several samples up to 100mm in diameter which stick to almost any surface, including those covered in dirt". While they still aren't up to gecko performance, they're impressive: "The material we have made so far will hold a family car to a roof". Back in the US, a small booklet for kids and non-technical people has been published describing the initial discovery. It's called From Gecko Feet to Sticky Tape, part of the extensive Imitating Nature series by KidHaven Press.

In Germany, researchers at the Max Planck Institute have been pursuing similar studies. They are replicating the texture of beetle feet, which work on the same principle as Gecko feet (Van Der Waals attraction), but are not as finely structured, so they are easier to build (although less sticky). Unlike the photo-lithography methods used by BAE for their gecko tape, and the electron-beam lithography used by the US gecko researchers, the Max Planck scientists cast a polymer into a mold with micro-sized pits in it, "similar to a cake tin in baking" (or, more accurately, a muffin tin), which can be re-used for multiple castings. While the beetle-mimicking material is not as sticky as gecko tape, it is still effective: "five square centimeters of the material can hold objects weighing up to one hundred grams on walls", and "it lasts for hundreds of applications, does not leave any visible marks and can be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water."

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