New Sticky Tape Could Let Humans Scale Walls Like Spiderman
|The microscopic leg hairs from an unspecified insect (left) was the inspiration for the synthetic, mushroom-shaped|
A new tape inspired by insect feet is so adhesive it can support a dangling man and so durable that it can be reused thousands of times.
The super tape's surface is covered with millions of silicon mushroom-shape structures that are invisible to the human eye and that mimic the densely matted hairs on the feet of flies, beetles and other insects. The stick appendages allow the tape to work in water, on glass and even inside the human body. The tape could very well be used by a person or robots to scale a wall Spiderman-style, said lead scientist Stanislav Gorb at Zoologisches Institut in Germany.
In tests, the tape was able to support an adult male who was hanging from a glass ceiling using only an 8-inch (20 cm) strip of the material.
Other tapes, such as Scotch tape, might be stronger, or stickier, because they are made from soft layers of sticky material that conform to surface contours. But the new insect tape is unique in that it can be reused thousands of times.
Unlike conventional tapes, which rapidly fail in response to a single travelling crack, the insect-inspired tape absorbs stress around each of its mushroom-shaped hairs.
It is counterintuitive to think that lots of little bumps will cause strong adhesion, Gorb said, noting the structures are neither sticky nor as high in contact area as flat tape.
But in order to peel this tape off I have to peel this tape off of every single contact at every single structure at every single time. Just as breaking a bundle of glass sticks is more difficult than breaking a single thick one, the many more contact points create hurdles to detachment.
Until the point of rupture, pulling on the insect tape which has about 10,000 suction pods per square centimeter actually makes it work better, Gorb explained.
Current uses of the tape include small robots that walk on walls. While a toy now, similar systems could eventually see use in manufacturing processes that involve flat materials like solar panels, Gorb said. Any smooth item could be picked and dropped with the tape, bypassing the energy-costly vacuums needed for suction-cup operation.
The tape could also find uses in medicine, he added, since it works even when wet and can be made in a silicon rubber variety. It could be used and re-used inside the body to open and seal organs by surgeons, Gorb said. A company could also use tape on the back of=different textiles to create removable wall decorations.
Also, you can wash it. After washing it, is still sticky. You can put it on the flat surface and then wash it and then remove it again, Gorb said. Or you can use it for protection for a car. On a sunny day you can put on the back side of the foil, a thin film of aluminum to reflect the sunlight. You just throw it on the window it won't move. It's sticky but it has no residue.
Gorb said the German company Binder currently has a contract to produce the material.