Gecko-inspired adhesive tape is 'self cleaning'

Inspired by the extraordinary sticking capabilities of gecko feet, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a self-cleaning, reusable adhesive tape.

When a gecko moves forward, the friction created by its feet causes large dirt particles to roll off the millions of microscopic hair-like projections known as setae.

The scientists copied this effect by creating mushroom-shaped elastic microhairs modelled after setae, in various sizes.

Instead of dirt particles, they employed glass spheres of micrometre size and distributed them on a smooth plate.

To simulate the steps made by a gecko, an artificial adhesive tape covered in microhairs was pressed onto the plate, shifted laterally and then lifted off again. This cycle was repeated several times while adhesive force was measured.

When the diameter of the spheres exceeded that of the microhairs, the researchers found that the adhesive force disappeared after the first contact.

After eight to ten test cycles, however, the gecko-inspired tape reached 80 to 100% of its original power again.

"In the long term, this effect might be used to develop a low cost alternative to hook and loop fasteners," said Dr Hendrik Hölscher, of KIT's Institute of Microstructure Technology. "Such a tape might be applied in the sports sector, in medicine, the automotive industry or aerospace technology."

Laura Hopperton

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