Science

It’s always a good day when I discover one of Ben Krasnow’s Applied Science episode that I haven’t seen. In this episode, from a few years back, Ben experiments with different methods of making his own gecko tape. Gecko type is a kind of advanced adhesive material, developed at Stanford, that’s based on the design of gecko feet. Where most adhesive tapes do their sticking through a chemical bonding process, a bond that can degrade over time, gecko tape makes a mechanical connection. Geckos have teeny-tiny hairs on the pads of their feet that conform to surfaces on a microscopic level, allowing them to scurry up walls and walk on surfaces upside down. Gecko tape attempts to mimic this mechanical bonding process.

In experimenting with making his own gecko tape, Ben explains the principles involved and then tries casting various materials to try and create a silicone-based “tape” with microscopic pillars for doing the gecko-like gripping. In the end, he has little success, dubs it a “work in progress,” and asks his readers to make suggestions for next steps. He gets a fair number of suggestions, but sadly, he doesn’t appear to have done a follow-up since. I hope he will eventually.

[youtube=https://youtu.be/9XQfYKYO380]

For those interested in exploring gecko tape in more depth, Ben offers these three links:

Non-working instructions to make gecko tape
Gecko tape research
Wedge-shaped gecko tape for asymmetric adhesion

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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