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J R Soc Interface. 2012 Feb 7;9(67):283-91. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2011.0254. Epub 2011 Jul 20.

Sliding-induced non-uniform pre-tension governs robust and reversible adhesion: a revisit of adhesion mechanisms of geckos.

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Department of Engineering Mechanics, Institute of High Performance Computing, Singapore 138632, Singapore.


Several mechanisms have been proposed in the literature to explain the robust attachment and rapid, controllable detachment of geckos' feet on vertical walls or ceilings, yet, it is still debatable, which one is ultimately responsible for geckos' extraordinary capabilities for robust and reversible adhesion. In this paper, we re-examine some of the key movements of geckos' spatula pads and seta hairs during attachment and detachment, and propose a sequence of simple mechanical steps that would lead to the extraordinary properties of geckos observed in experiments. The central subject under study here is a linear distribution of pre-tension along the spatula pad induced by its sliding motion with respect to a surface. The resulting pre-tension, together with a control of setae's pulling force and angle, not only allows for robust and strong attachment, but also enables rapid and controllable detachment. We perform computational modelling and simulations to validate the following key steps of geckos' adhesion: (i) creation of a linear distribution of pre-tension in spatula through sliding, (ii) operation of an instability envelope controlled by setae's pulling force and angle, (iii) triggering of an adhesion instability leading to partial decohesion along the interface, and (iv) complete detachment of spatula through post-instability peeling. The present work not only reveals novel insights into the adhesion mechanism of geckos, but also develops a powerful numerical simulation approach as well as additional guidelines for bioinspired materials and devices.

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