Tiny hairs on geckos’ toe pads allow the reptiles to easily stick and unstick its feet as it climbs up walls and hangs upside down from ceilings. Now researchers at the University of Akron are working to unravel the secrets of the lizard’s superior stickiness to develop a synthetic adhesive that sticks when moist or on wet surfaces.
In this recently posted video, Alyssa Stark, a doctoral candidate at the University of Akron, explains how she and colleagues tested a gecko’s gripping power in a series of west and dry scenarios. Study results showed that it takes 20 times the lizard’s own body weight to cause it to slip when its feet are dry on a dry surface, a sheet of glass in this case. But as the gecko’s feet become increasingly wet it has trouble maintaining its grip without any additional force.
While it’s not hugely surprising that the reptile’s ability to grip is greatly reduced in wet conditions, scientists not involved in the study say understanding the extent to which the gecko’s adhesive performance declines is important for designing strong, reusable bandages or sutures that stay on for long periods of time, even when wet.
Findings from the University of Akron study were published online yesterday in the Journal of Experimental Biology.