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UA Researchers Study Geckos to Develop an Adhesive That Sticks When Wet

Published on 2013-04-03. Author : SpecialChem

Geckos' ability to stick to trees and leaves during rainforest downpours has fascinated scientists for decades, leading a group of University of Akron researchers to solve the mystery.

They discovered that wet, hydrophobic (water-repellent) surfaces like those of leaves and tree trunks secure a gecko's grip similar to the way dry surfaces do. The finding brings UA integrated bioscience doctoral candidate Alyssa Stark and her research colleagues closer to developing a synthetic adhesive that sticks when wet.

Principal investigator Stark and her fellow UA researchers Ila Badge, Nicholas Wucinich, Timothy Sullivan, Peter Niewiarowski and Ali Dhinojwala study the adhesive qualities of gecko pads, which have tiny, clingy hairs that stick like Velcro to dry surfaces. In a 2012 study, the team discovered that geckos lose their grip on wet glass. This finding led the scientists to explore how the lizards function in their natural environments.

The scientists studied the clinging power of six geckos, which they outfitted with harnesses and tugged upon gently as the lizards clung to surfaces in wet and dry conditions.

Link between adhesion and 'wettability'

The researchers found that the effect of water on adhesive strength correlates with wettability, or the ability of a liquid to maintain contact with a solid surface. On glass, which has high wettability, a film of water forms between the surface and the gecko's foot, decreasing adhesion.

About University of Akron

The University of Akron is a vibrant community within metropolitan Akron, with more than 80 buildings on 218 acres. Since 2000, we have added 21 buildings, completed 18 major additions, acquisitions and renovations, and created 34 acres of new green space.UA offers more than 300 undergraduate and graduate programs, including many that are recognized nationally for their excellence.

Source: University of Akron


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