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Gecko-Inspired Dry Adhesive Set For Space

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the for-all-your-sticking-to-stuff-needs dept.

Space 141

AndreV writes "Biomimetic adhesives aren't new, but a PhD graduate in British Columbia has developed a new method of creating microscopic, mushroom-like plastic structures in order to produce a dry adhesive that mimics the stickiness of gecko feet—and is prepping his glue-free innovation for outer space. A research group at his university, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is engineering a spider-like, sticky-footed climbing robot destined to explore Mars, and it is also developing reusable attaching systems for astronauts to use where magnetic and suction systems generally fail. In the future, he says, single-use versions could be used in any number of medical applications as well as for replacements for everyday sticky needs, such as Post-It notes and Scotch tape."

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141 comments

What's going on? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27523665)

What the hell is with all my dinner napkins? After a few washes they've gone from being square to parallelogram or even some fucked up trapezoid shape. I can't even fold them properly anymore.

Re:What's going on? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27523769)

Oh yeah, that's what happens to them if the get completely soaked in semen. The best way to get it out is just suck on each one until it is no longer crusty.

Re:What's going on? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27523985)

Additionally, I find that urinating on each napkin helps to break up and dissolve the cum-crust so that it can easily be sucked off. It also lends a nice, sharp aromatic contrast to the mellow flavor of the semen.

Re:What's going on? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27524247)

This dry adhesive can't possibly be worse than the time I accidentally super-glued my hand to my penis. Don't ask ... just, don't ask. All I'll say is that the only thing worse would be super-glue eyedrops.

sweet (2, Insightful)

SinShiva (1429617) | about 5 years ago | (#27523711)

+1 for spider robot technology

Re:sweet (3, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 5 years ago | (#27525661)

A friend of mine studied this stuff for his Ph.D research. It's the molecular-level adhesive force between the Gecko's feet and the surface that allows it to cling. That force is relatively-weak but when multiplied by a few million "pads" on the foot, it's strong enough to let a lizard climb up a wall. Or a robot.

NOT what you think (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27523719)

If you RTFA you will see that this new adhesive is not based on the nano-scale properties of gecko feet, but is the first space adhesive that doubles as a delightful gecko-flavored paste in emergencies.

Re:NOT what you think (4, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | about 5 years ago | (#27523727)

Bwahaha, you can't get me to read TFA that easily!

Re:NOT what you think (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 5 years ago | (#27524329)

Why shuld I read TFA whan I dont bother reading my own posts?

Re:NOT what you think (2, Funny)

Abstrackt (609015) | about 5 years ago | (#27524905)

Why shuld I read TFA whan I dont bother reading my own posts?

Don't worry, we don't bother reading your posts either.

Re:NOT what you think (1)

Adriax (746043) | about 5 years ago | (#27528203)

Yeah, cake is great, I love it too. I prefer chocolate myself, much better than reading posts.

Re:NOT what you think (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | about 5 years ago | (#27525609)

Why shuld I read TFA whan I dont bother reading my own posts?

Well obviously you didn't read that.

Re:NOT what you think (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27528299)

Hmmm...I just noticed that I didn't even do those spelling errors the first time I read the comment.

I'm scared. Hold me.

Re:NOT what you think (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 5 years ago | (#27525329)

If you RTFA you will see that this new adhesive is not based on the nano-scale properties of gecko feet...

I knew it! it was inspired by the HTML layout rendering engine.... right? Right???

I wonder why my fingers are sticky! (2, Interesting)

fprintf (82740) | about 5 years ago | (#27523741)

You know, I hate it when my fingers feel sticky, even if they really aren't "sticky" in that stuff that I pick up stays stuck. You touch the backside of a post-it, and then for a little while they are sticky afterward. Or you touch scotch tape, and same thing - the fingers are just tacky and it feels weird in a fingers-down-the-blackboard sort of way.

There is no way I'd want to be in Space and have to touch this stuff, and then not be able to get it off by washing my hands. I prefer to get my fingers sticky another way, thank you very much!

Re:I wonder why my fingers are sticky! (2, Informative)

thedonger (1317951) | about 5 years ago | (#27524271)

It's not a "dry" paste you apply, but more like a silicone glove you wear. There is no loose anything to stick to you.

magnetic (2, Interesting)

Khashishi (775369) | about 5 years ago | (#27523757)

It's obvious that suction wouldn't work in space, but why would magnetic stickers fail?

Re:magnetic (2, Insightful)

GSPride (763993) | about 5 years ago | (#27523793)

It's obvious that suction wouldn't work in space, but why would magnetic stickers fail?

You're trying to stick to plastic?

Re:magnetic (4, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 5 years ago | (#27523835)

Magnetic stickers only work on refrigerators. Since it's colder on the outside of the space station, you can only use them on the inside.

Re:magnetic (5, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#27523975)

That's rubbish. Magnetic stickers don't work in space because there is no North or South pole to point to.

Re:magnetic (4, Insightful)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 5 years ago | (#27524171)

Someone needs to collect all the scientific knowledge expressed in slashdot posts, and write a text book. Why hide this useful archive of scientific truths in obscure blog posts when we can use it to illuminate the minds of the children?

Re:magnetic (4, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#27524415)

I'm just practicing for when my daughter gets old enough to start asking "why?" about everything.

I am SO going to screw her up for elementary school science classes.

Re:magnetic (2, Interesting)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 5 years ago | (#27524723)

My 8 year old asked why you can't divide by 0. Said her teacher told her that she shouldn't do that but now she wants to know why she shouldn't do it. Sigh. I showed her divide by zero error on a calculator. /damn my art school (won't need math for this degree!) drop out education (even art school has homework requirements)

Re:magnetic (2, Informative)

BytePusher (209961) | about 5 years ago | (#27524835)

Just explain it like this... 1/1 = 1, 1/0.5 = 2, 1/0.1 = 10, 1/0.01 = 100, 1/0.001 = 1000, 1/0 = infinity. You CAN divide by zero, but the answer isn't useful for finite math.

Re:magnetic (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 5 years ago | (#27524979)

Ah, this is perfect. Totally makes sense, compared to that far off high school algebra class, back in the early '80's. I mean, you'd think a football coach who'd played for the Browns would also be a decent math teacher, wouldn't ya!

Re:magnetic (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#27525203)

Yeah, because they still ignore that the result (infinity) is i two-component result (much like complex numbers), but with the second component being (i guess) temporal.
That way, you do not lose anything, and can still use formulas with infinity inside them, and get useful results too.

In my eyes, zero and infinity (there are two types: the negative and the positive one, just like with zero) are in the same group.
You could also see zero as some kind of infinity. Because you can go smaller and smaller, and never end getting smaller. But somehow, you still can end up a zero. (the limit).
Same thing with infinity. You can still end up on infinity. It is still a useful result. But same as you write 0.0000001, you should also write numbers with infinity inside them. (maybe (inf).1000000?) dunno how you would write it though.

Re:magnetic (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 5 years ago | (#27528635)

So, as the guy did with complex numbers, you say "nevertheless we shall proceed to operate", leaving the problematic entity as an algebraic value?

So say, like calling sqrt(-1) 'i' and manipulating it algebraically, you call the value of 1/0 by some label. I shall arbitrarily choose 'fuck'. Then you have equations like:
(a + 5) / 0 = 5
Which rearranges to:
(a + 5) * 1 / 0 = 5
(a + 5) * fuck = 5
a = 5 / fuck - 5
a = 5 / (1/0) - 5
a = 5 * 0/1 - 5
a = -5

...holy shit, that worked O.o I was just making stuff up.

Re:magnetic (2, Funny)

Daimanta (1140543) | about 5 years ago | (#27525261)

2/0=inf.
3/0=inf.
2/0=3/0
Multiply by zero:

2=3

If you can divide by zero, numbers make no sense. That's amazing you say, has somebody ever tried to divide by zero and did bad things happen as a result?

Yes, do you remember the banking crisis of 2008, that's when 1 tiny bank accidentally divided by zero. Through the internet this ofcourse rapidly spread and soon numbers made no sense. Because they made no sense, the virtual money indicator flipped to negative. That's why your house has lost 50% of its value.

The more you know.

Re:magnetic (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 5 years ago | (#27525933)

Okay, but take your argument a step or two further: but 2!=3, therefore
2/0 != 3/0, therefore

2/0 is a different "infinity" than 3/0, which makes sense: 2/n never equals 3/n, so why should 2/0 == 3/0?

Re:magnetic (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | about 5 years ago | (#27526325)

Actually, that isn't neccesairy. Landing at an inconsistency with assumed premisses and a correct system, disproves the premisses. The second you land at 2=3 is the second that you know that dividing by zero is nonsense.

Re:magnetic (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 5 years ago | (#27526669)

>>>2/0=3/0
>>>Multiply by zero:
>>>2=3

Bzzz. 2/0 = 3/0 = infinity. Infinity * 0 == 0. This reminds me of a neat little trick my math teacher played in 11th grade. 0.9999 (to infinity) == 1.

1/3 = 0.333 (to infinity)
2/3 = 0.666 (to infinity)
===========
1 = 0.999 (to infinity)

Re:magnetic (1)

klaun (236494) | about 5 years ago | (#27525791)

Just explain it like this... 1/1 = 1, 1/0.5 = 2, 1/0.1 = 10, 1/0.01 = 100, 1/0.001 = 1000, 1/0 = infinity. You CAN divide by zero, but the answer isn't useful for finite math.

Except that isn't accurate. 1/0 != infinity. Does infinity * 0 = 1? No... of course not. Since multiplication is the inverse function of division... your statement is incorrect. Now if you'd written lim(x->0) of [1/x] is infinity, you'd have been right.

x/0 for any non-zero number is simply undefined. Its not useful for transfinite math either.

p.s. exceptions in linear algebra, abstract algebra, etc. generally involve different division operators from arithmetic.

Re:magnetic (0)

geobeck (924637) | about 5 years ago | (#27524867)

My 8 year old asked why you can't divide by 0.

Easy explanation: Division asks how many of the second number it takes to equal the first number. How many zeroes does it take to equal 1? or 100? or a googalplex? It doesn't matter how many zeroes you multiply together, you'll never get anything except zero.

Which brings up a technical point that doesn't seem to be accounted for in arithmetic devices. "Zero divided by zero equals zero" is a valid expression; the only valid expression of division by zero.

As a side note, years ago when I was taking my teaching degree, we had to take a basic Math class because some teacher in the city had told a kid that a number divided by zero equals zero. That kid's parents were mathematicians, and had a few choice words for the university that educated that teacher.

Re:magnetic (3, Insightful)

mrsurb (1484303) | about 5 years ago | (#27525013)

The problem with "zero divided by zero equals zero" is that it is equally true that "zero divided by zero equals twelve". How many zeros does it take to equal zero? Zero, one, two, pi, anything. It's undefined. And here ends my first slashdot post where I am literally arguing over nothing.

Re:magnetic (1)

geobeck (924637) | about 5 years ago | (#27525183)

The problem with "zero divided by zero equals zero" is that it is equally true that "zero divided by zero equals twelve".

Good point. So the correct answer to "zero divided by zero" would be {R}, the set of real numbers... or possibly the set that includes both real and imaginary numbers; not sure how they behave in regular arithmetic.

Re:magnetic (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 5 years ago | (#27525083)

Division asks how many of the second number it takes to equal the first number.

I've never thought about division this way. That actually makes sense!

Cool!

Re:magnetic (3, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#27524965)

Sigh. I showed her divide by zero error on a calculator.

You explained to her she shouldn't do something because a machine can't do it either?

I'd use the good-old-pie-fractions example. Take a pie. Divide it into two parts, explain that's dividing by two.
Cut it again, so it's four parts. Explain you divided it by four.
Cut twice more and ask how many pieces there are (that's how many you divided by).
Now, give her the knife, and ask her to divide it into zero parts. Explain that's why she can't divide by zero... no matter how many times you cut, no matter how you approach it, you cannot end up with zero parts.

Then, eat the pie and play fractions games with each piece.

Re:magnetic (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#27526129)

meh, he is going to ART school. I'm not even sure how he got here~

Re:magnetic (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 5 years ago | (#27526707)

Actually, I dropped out of art school in '93. Turned out that, while I had no great design skills, I was great at fixing Macs in the computer lab. And at the print shops where student were always bringing in effed up layouts with missing font files. Next thing I knew, people were calling me, offering booze and money to get the shiny out of the machine or show them out to make Photoshop or Illustrator do what they wanted. Now, still with no degree, I'm a senior Macintosh analyst at a national lab that my crack the practical fusion problem. Yeah me!

Re:magnetic (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | about 5 years ago | (#27526781)

Of course if the two of you eat the entire pie you end up dividing it by two and getting zero parts left so that may not be the safest way to go about this.

Re:magnetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27527063)

just eat the whole damn pie and end up with zero parts

om nom nom

Re:magnetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27526003)

Just explain it like this:

You have one big, juicy apple pie. You want to divide that pie by four. Easy enough. Each of those four people get 1/4th of the pie.

You want to divide that pie by two. Easy enough. Each of those two people get 1/2 the pie.

You want to divide that pie by one, meaning, it's all yours. Easy enough. You get one whole pie!

But what if there is nobody there to divide the pie with? Let's say someone got shot or run over by a hummer on their way to get the pie. If you divide that pie by zero people... ...never mind, that example worked out great in my head until I typed it out. I guess the owner of the pie would have to set it down and walk away, never to look back at the apple pie. In that case, the pie gets turned into some weird wave / particle entity where it infinitely exists and doesn't exist all at once. Sad.

Re:magnetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27528233)

I divide by zero all the time. It's great.

Re:magnetic (1)

steelfood (895457) | about 5 years ago | (#27525009)

The easy way to do that would've been to have given her a funny name. For example:

Alison Wanda or Ivana Mandy or just Siloh.

It would be even better if you could make it work with your surname, the way Jack Abramoff works well.

Re:magnetic (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#27525189)

It would be even better if you could make it work with your surname, the way Jack Abramoff works well.

I'm one step ahead of you there, her name is Mindy. Mindy Flayer.

Re:magnetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27524003)

It's obvious that suction wouldn't work in space, but why would magnetic stickers fail?

because everybody and their brother seems to have some silly obsession with carbon fiber and/or aluminum these days.

Re:magnetic (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 years ago | (#27524151)

When you have to launch into space whatever you build, the stuff you don't include can easily be worth its weight in gold(depending on exactly where the price of gold is at the time, of course).

Re:magnetic (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 5 years ago | (#27524091)

It's obvious that suction wouldn't work in space, but why would magnetic stickers fail?

Who said they would fail? An additional way to stick one thing to another is still going to be useful.

Re:magnetic (2, Informative)

clone53421 (1310749) | about 5 years ago | (#27524113)

I know it's slashdot and we don't read TFA here, but at least read TFS.

it is also developing reusable attaching systems for astronauts to use where magnetic and suction systems generally fail

Re:magnetic (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 5 years ago | (#27526711)

Hey man, I read the whole one line post I was responding to. If that's not enough to comment on something, I don't even know where /. is headed.

Seriously: I do feel dumb about that now, sorry to all of you who were confused there.

Useful Lifespan? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27523763)

A "sticky-footed climbing robot destined to explore Mars" makes it sound like this thing may see use on the ground. I'm curious how they plan to deal with dust and debris collecting on the pads.

They say "dirt particles can easily fall off the edge of the fibres", but I don't understand how a solution like this can be selective about what it sticks to.

Re:Useful Lifespan? (5, Informative)

Ohrion (814105) | about 5 years ago | (#27523981)

Well, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gecko [wikipedia.org] dust and dirt that could prevent the van der Waals forces that geckos toes use, are removed within a couple steps due to "self-cleaning" properties. If they are able to reproduce the effect properly, the lifespan of the product could be quite significant.

Re:Useful Lifespan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27524065)

Do those "self-cleaning properties" of gecko feet involve a gecko tongue?

Re:Useful Lifespan? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 5 years ago | (#27524019)

A "sticky-footed climbing robot destined to explore Mars" makes it sound like this thing may see use on the ground. I'm curious how they plan to deal with dust and debris collecting on the pads.

Katamari Damacy on Mars?

they should have used webkit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27523775)

but it's not my decision

What next? (2, Funny)

Ibag (101144) | about 5 years ago | (#27523871)

A spider monkey inspired car horn set for space? A webkit inspired grapling hook set for space? Oh, the joy of open source browsers.

For the environment (2, Insightful)

olddotter (638430) | about 5 years ago | (#27523883)

For those that need a monetary reason to save the environment, this is a poster child. We can learn a huge amount of useful things from studying nature. If that nature is allowed to die out, then we will miss out on the hidden knowledge.

Re:For the environment (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 5 years ago | (#27523961)

yea, that's what I was doing. Studying nature. Hidden knowledge and all that. Until they closed the curtains.

Medical? (2, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 5 years ago | (#27523901)

What sort of medical applications make use of post-it notes? Maybe it will hold an incision closed, but that floppy tag of paper is just too much for most prople to ignore.

Re:Medical? (2, Funny)

mugnyte (203225) | about 5 years ago | (#27523993)

  Especially when your laceration has a shopping list on it. Maybe we can put the care instructions on the Post-It?

Re:Medical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27524061)

Post it notes? None that I know of

Medical glue? Alot. Father just had surgery from kneecap to groin, stitching near the upper thigh is not a good thing to do because of flexability? Solution? Glue. I could see this as acting as a temporary solution with modifications made.

Re:Medical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27524359)

Why did he have his kneecap moved to his groin? Seems you need to find another health care provider.

Re:Medical? (3, Funny)

fractoid (1076465) | about 5 years ago | (#27524463)

What sort of medical applications make use of post-it notes?

Ones where the surgeon has more than one thing to do to you before stitching you shut?

sticking to spaceships... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27523937)

So easy, a caveman could do it!

Yay Gecko Tape! (2, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 5 years ago | (#27524085)

Ever since some years ago we read on /. that they had discovered the secret behind geckos' amazing abilities, I've been waiting for practical applications of this in the form of gecko tape and the soon-to-follow gecko shoes and gloves.

Glad to see that they'll be using it in space soon, guess that means it'll only be a matter of time before I can get it at Home Depot. In the meantime, whenever I want something stuck to the wall, I just tie it to a gecko and then let the gecko do the sticking for me. Tough part is keeping them in one place, but ironically a little traditional glue does the job nicely. The other problem is I can only put things out of the reach of my cat...

Re:Yay Gecko Tape! (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#27524549)

Tough part is keeping them in one place, but ironically a little traditional glue does the job nicely.

In which case, you're using glue anyway.

I find it's much simpler to use a staple gun to affix the geckos to the wall.

I use the staples made for insulated wire, otherwise the staples go right through 'em and all you have to show for it is a perforated gecko twitching on the floor... which is the same result as within-reach-of-the-kitty gluing.

Re:Yay Gecko Tape! (1)

Tmack (593755) | about 5 years ago | (#27525299)

Ever since some years ago we read on /. that they had discovered the secret behind geckos' amazing abilities, I've been waiting for practical applications of this in the form of gecko tape and the soon-to-follow gecko shoes and gloves.

...

Not to detract too much from your post... but Ive been using gecko tape and gloves for a few years now though probably not as advanced as the stuff in TFA:

Greptile [3m.com] is 3m's name for it. I use handlebar tape made with it on my road bike, and before it went out of production (Seems to be only used for golf equipment and Nascar steering wheels these days), had the gloves to match. With the gloves on the tape it was like a weak velcro. Even with normal gloves it has more grip than normal tape.

Tm

Re:Yay Gecko Tape! (1)

kris_lang (466170) | about 5 years ago | (#27526145)

Self-Cleaning Gecko Adhesive (Sep. 2008)

First synthetic gecko adhesive which cleans itself during use, as the natural gecko does. After contamination by microspheres, the microfiber array loses all adhesion strength. After repeated contacts with clean glass, the microspheres are shed, and the fibers recover 30% of their original adhesion. The fibers have a non-adhesive default state, which encourages particle removal during contact.
Contact Self-Cleaning of Synthetic Gecko Adhesive, Langmuir 2008

Re:Yay Gecko Tape! (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | about 5 years ago | (#27528161)

I've been waiting for practical applications of this in the form of gecko tape and the soon-to-follow gecko shoes and gloves.

Interesting! I foresee height becoming less of a barrier, and barbed wire sales increasing.

Also need a Gecko tongue (2, Insightful)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 5 years ago | (#27524179)

The next innovation required would be Gecko tongue to clean the dirty feet, else it won't go far.

Re:Also need a Gecko tongue (1)

Spatial (1235392) | about 5 years ago | (#27526055)

Someone posted above that their feet are self-cleaning. He cited Wikipedia which cites this. [pnas.org]

If true, it could be a very useful material.

Not firefox (2, Funny)

Kashell (896893) | about 5 years ago | (#27524473)

Read the headline and thought, "By George! Mozilla is using the Gecko rendering engine in space now?!"

Re:Not firefox (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 5 years ago | (#27524743)

...the bad part is "Dry Adhesive" could actually be the name of a rendering engine. I read it the same as you, at first.

tubtgirl (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27524487)

ultimately, we knowqs that ever

Cooler than VanderWahl forces and Gecko feet (1)

zymano (581466) | about 5 years ago | (#27524829)

Is 'cold welding'. wikipedia has an article on it. Didn't know that you could weld without high heat. Oxides prevent it on our planet but in space satellites tend to weld themselves up.

Ziggy Played Guitar (1)

MaxwellEdison (1368785) | about 5 years ago | (#27524967)

A research group at his university, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is engineering a spider-like, sticky-footed climbing robot destined to explore Mars

Aha! David Bowie was just a visionary...The Spiders of Mars are on their way!

More gecko products for space (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27525755)

Next up, NASA is planning on trying to produce a way to mimic a gecko's ability to appeal to the American mass market sales channel to create actual funding for the space program.

whaaat? (1)

Ikyaat (764422) | about 5 years ago | (#27527047)

so if suction cups, no matter the scale, work by decreasing the air pressure inside the cup to create a seal from the pressure outside the cup, how will they work in space? which to my knowledge has a lot less air pressure then earth?
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