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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2008 May 13;366(1870):1575-90. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2007.2173.

Gecko adhesion: evolutionary nanotechnology.

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Department of Biology, Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR 97219, USA.


If geckos had not evolved, it is possible that humans would never have invented adhesive nanostructures. Geckos use millions of adhesive setae on their toes to climb vertical surfaces at speeds of over 1ms-1. Climbing presents a significant challenge for an adhesive in requiring both strong attachment and easy rapid removal. Conventional pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs) are either strong and difficult to remove (e.g. duct tape) or weak and easy to remove (e.g. sticky notes). The gecko adhesive differs dramatically from conventional adhesives. Conventional PSAs are soft viscoelastic polymers that degrade, foul, self-adhere and attach accidentally to inappropriate surfaces. In contrast, gecko toes bear angled arrays of branched, hair-like setae formed from stiff, hydrophobic keratin that act as a bed of angled springs with similar effective elastic modulus to that of PSAs. Setae are self-cleaning and maintain function for months during repeated use in dirty conditions. Setae are an anisotropic 'frictional adhesive' in that adhesion requires maintenance of a proximally directed shear load, enabling either a tough bond or spontaneous detachment. Gecko-like synthetic adhesives may become the glue of the future-and perhaps the screw of the future as well.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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