Stanford's Gecko-like 'Stickybot Climbs Vertical Surfaces

Scaling buildings like Spiderman could be a reality, scientists claim

Walking up the side of buildings like Spiderman could soon be a reality, scientists have claimed.

Stanford researchers Paul Day (L) and Alan Asbeck with the Stickybot

Technicians have struggled over the last 10 years to create an artificial version strong enough for a vertical climb to be attempted successfully. However, researchers at Stanford University, California, have created a rubber-like material covered with thousands of tiny polymer fibres to imitate the gecko's hairs. These hairs, which are called setae, are ten times thinner than a human hair.

The material is said to be strong and reusable, and leaves no residue or damage. It has been tested on a "robotic gecko" called Stickybot which can walk up panes of glass.

Stanford University

Secrets of the gecko foot help robot climb

The science behind gecko toes holds the answer to a dry adhesive that provides an ideal grip for robot feet. Stanford mechanical engineer Mark Cutkosky is using the new material, based on the structure of a gecko foot, to keep his robots climbing.

Wonders of the gecko toe

The toe of a gecko's foot contains hundreds of flap-like ridges called lamellae. On each ridge are millions of hairs called setae, which are 10 times thinner than a human's. Under a microscope, you can see that each hair divides into smaller strands called spatulae, making it look like a bundle of split ends. These split ends are so tiny (a few hundred nanometers) that they interact with the molecules of the climbing surface.
The interaction between the molecules of gecko toe hair and the wall is a molecular attraction called van der Waals force. A gecko can hang and support its whole weight on one toe by placing it on the glass and then pulling it back. It only sticks when you pull in one direction – their toes are a kind of one-way adhesive, Cutkosky said.

"It's very different from Scotch tape or duct tape, where, if you press it on, you then have to peel it off. You can lightly brush a directional adhesive against the surface and then pull in a certain direction, and it sticks itself. But if you pull in a different direction, it comes right off without any effort," he said.


stalks_bent.jpg Microscope video of version 1 stalks attaching to a thin strip without normal preload.

For the latest hierarchical directional materials see ClimbingAdhesion .

Key Ideas:

Stickybot is an embodiment of our hypotheses about the requirements for mobility on vertical surfaces using dry adhesion. The main point is that we need controllable adhesion. The essential ingredients are:
  • hierarchical compliance for conforming at centimeter, millimeter and micrometer scales,
  • anisotropic dry adhesive materials and structures so that we can control adhesion by controlling shear,
  • distributed active force control that works with compliance and anisotropy to achieve stability.
Collected from: StickyBot < Rise < TWiki

Scaling buildings like Spiderman could be a reality, scientists claim - Telegraph
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