Sunday, February 23, 2014

Geckos and Robots

Gecko; Source (1)
Geckos are truly awesome creatures. One intriguing attribute is that they can walk on walls and ceilings. There is a secret however to this ability. Researchers have been trying to elucidate this secret for some time, and have come up with technology to mimic geckos toes. This includes glue, tape and a rubberized material used to make a gecko robot.

The secret of this mind boggling ability is biologically multilevel. Geckos feet and legs are lined with lamellae (image B), these are small ridges that form flaps. On each of these there are hairs called setae (image C & D). These little hairs divide into microscopic hairs called spatula (image E). These spatula attach to its climbing surfaces by weak chemical bond called Van der Waals forces. However, the spatula only stick in one direction. Detachment is easy, but the design is complex, they have rotational ankles so they can "stick" and then rotate to "un-stick".

Gecko's feet; source (3)
Researchers visioned a robot with the same wall climbing abilities. To mimic this sticking action, they designed a rubber-like material that has micro hairs on the surface. This adhesive does not just have hairs, but also the same lamellae design mimicked from the gecko. Lastly they attached this material to their robot called "Stickybot" (2)

What I find just a little curious is the quantity of research time (probably years), the amount of money needed, the vast knowledge base and many minds to make this thing work. The technology, chemical design and engineering also should not be forgotten. However, this Stickybot is still not as finely designed as our little lizard friend. Silly how a mindless process can do more amazing things they our brightest minds. Don't forget we copied this "mindless" design. I wonder....

(1)Gecko image 1:
(2) More about the Stickybot:
(3) Gecko image 2:

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