Gecko Feet Key to New Glue

This picture shows a crested gecko, Rhacodactylus ciliatus, climbing up the vertical side of a terrarium (Wikimedia Commons)

What do mussels and geckos have in common? They're both super-sticky, and scientists have just announced a new glue based on the adhesive properties of both animals.

The new glue, called "geckel nanoadhesive" in the current issue of Nature, is inspired by gecko feet. Gecko feet have pads covered with "hairs." The hairs, each less than 1/10 the thickness of a human hair, are split at the ends into many more, even thinner (think nanometers) hairs that have cup-like shapes on them called spatulae. It's the spatulae--half a million on each tiny foot--that make it possible for geckos to climb up walls without secreting any kind of adhesive.

The scientists used the design of gecko spatulae and coated them with a man-made adhesive similar to the one that makes mussels stick to rocks. The result is a super-sticky, super-durable glue that would work as well wet as it would dry. The scientists hope the new material will be used in the medical field to create long-lasting, durable bandages and patches.


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