Scaling new heights< Back to Blog

While Marvel’s superhero, Spider-Man, has been scaling skyscrapers ever since the character was first created back in 1962, for the rest of us, such things can only be achieved with scaffolding, harnesses and a list of health and safety precautions as long as that skyscraper!

Being able to climb up walls or across ceilings without such support would be a game-changer for the construction industry but, of course, it’s totally impossible.

Or is it?

For a long time, scientists have been trying to create some kind of material that could allow everyday people to defy gravity in ways that some animals (and superheroes of course) manage easily. Taking their inspiration from geckos, a team of researchers have now created a dry adhesive that could someday bring that vision to life.

Gecko toesHemant Kumar Raut, Hong Yee Low and colleagues studies the gecko’s unique toe pads which are covered with microscopic hairs that allow them to employ dry adhesion, meaning they can stick to a surface without using a liquid or surface tension.

Although scientists have manufactured dry adhesives with similar properties before, they’ve encountered difficulties in making them as sticky or as durable as gecko toes or simple enough to make in large batches.

But, using a nanoimprinting technique to build web-like layers, this group of researchers think they have cracked it with an adhesion that is cost-effective, ultra-sticky, easy to perform and scalable.

So, are we about to see bricklayers and roofers using such material on their boots to perform their tasks in ways we never could have imagined?

Well, so far, in tests, the adhesive has been placed on the feet of a miniature robot, which moved with ease up a 30-degree incline. Perhaps it’s a few more years before people will finally be leaping their way up buildings too!


Story source: Materials provided by American Chemical Society