Get a Grip: Geckos
Firefighters may one day be able to scale tall buildings like Spiderman, thanks to a new adhesive called Geckskin that mimics the clingy surfaces of gecko feet.
The tiny, three-ounce lizards have amazing adhesive powers that enable them to run straight up surfaces, carrying up to nine pounds, says Duncan J. Irschick, a University of Massachusetts Amherst biologist who has studied the gecko’s climbing and clinging abilities for more than 20 years.
Despite their amazing grip—a combination of several interacting elements, including tendons, bones, and skin—the gecko’s bond is not hard to reverse. “Gecko feet can be applied and disengaged with ease,” Irschick says.
Like its namesake, Geckskin is strong yet simple to remove. An index-card-sized piece can hold 700 pounds on a smooth wall yet can be detached with a slight tug. Irschick says the device illustrates the power of studying evolution “to inspire synthetic design that can ultimately aid humans in many ways.”
This story, written by Nancy Averett, originally ran in Audubon’s September-October 2012 issue.
Gecko Glue: By applying sticking strategies from experts at opposite ends of the natural world, scientists are building a better Band-Aid.
Where It All Begins: After honing its engineering skills for billions of years, nature has produced some of the world’s most innovative technologies and adaptations.
Desert Tails: In chaparral, creosote-bush and sagebrush desert, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and dry grasslands from southern Nevada to western Mexico, western banded geckos are struggling from their eggshells.