Synthetic Beetle Adhesives
Utilizing liquids for better adhesion
Introduction: Scientists have been fascinated for centuries by many insects' abilities to both cling to and move around on vertical and past vertical - sometimes even completely upside down - smooth surfaces. For beetles and certain other insects, what enables them to perform these feats is a combination of micro-hairs and a secreted liquid. The hairs provide a level of compliance to allow for better conformity to uneven surfaces (much like gecko hairs) while the liquid provides adhesion in the form of capillary forces.
Goal: Combine our synthetic gecko foot hair fabrication with a method of secreting an appropriate liquid to obtain a strong adhesion mechanism.
Approach: A method of producing synthetic micro hairs has been established and will be used for this project (see gecko hair page). Various liquids will be tested with the hairs in our force measurement system for viability. At the moment, liquid delivery remains an unsolved problem. We are currently trying a design that uses passive pressure (applied when the foot hits the surface) to release the liquid through pores at the base of the hairs.
Benefits: This adhesion mechanism has numerous uses, including the lab's ultra-mobile robots and the endoscopic microcapsule. Synthetic beetle adhesives could be used whenever an object needs to temporarily attach to another object.
Eugene Cheung, Xian-yi Wu
This project was funded by the NSF (IIS-0328579)