Gecko Foot Design—Could it Lead to a Real ‘Spider-man’?

Gecko foot

Technology tries to match what comes naturally to a gecko

by Jonathan Sarfati

In Creation, we reported on how a gecko can stick to almost any surface, so it can even run upside down on a ceiling of polished glass. This is due to the way tiny chemical forces are exploited by tiny hairs called setae, about 1/10 of a millimetre long and packed 5,000 per square millimetre (three million per square inch). The end of each seta has about 400–1,000 branches ending in a spatula-like structure about 0.2–0.5 microns—less than 1/50,000 of an inch—long (a micron is 1/1,000 of a millimetre). This is an amazingly fine structure that the researchers said was ‘beyond the limits of human technology’.

But this is not enough—it would do the gecko no good to have this amazing foot if it could only stick—it must also unstick quickly. The gecko manages this with the ‘unusually complex behaviour’ of uncurling its toes when attaching, and unpeeling while detaching.

Since man was created in God’s image, we should not be too surprised that man can also imitate God’s creativity to some degree.

Engineer Metin Sitti, of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA, has managed to duplicate the gecko foot surface structure to some extent. He used a very fine nanoprobe and an electron microscope to make a tiny wax mould for a resin, which set to form artificial hairs. Dr. Sitti points out that the shape and orientation of the hairs is important for their function. His artificial hairs are not yet strong enough to support the weight of a human, but the researchers are continually improving their technology. He aims to makes robots for planetary exploration that could climb over any surface…

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image credit: Skitterphoto