New Tape Mimics Sticky Gecko Feet

Image showing gecko clinging to mussel shell. Geckel adhesive combines the wet adhesive properties of mussel adhesive proteins with the dry adhesive strategy of the gecko. (Image credit: H. Lee, W. Lim & A.J. Kane.)

Scientists have developed an adhesive that mimics the easy stick and release ability of gecko’s feet.

Composed of millions of plastic fibers, a mere square inch of the material can support close to a pound. But unlike regular tape, the new material actually gets stronger with use.

In experiments, the material was shown to tighten its hold as it slid along a glass surface, and when lifted, simply released. The adhesive could prove useful for a range of everyday products, from climbing equipment to medical devices.

"The results of this project are an impressive example of how teaming engineers with biologists results in a better understanding of the role of 'engineering' in nature," said Lynn Preston of the National Science Foundation, which funded the research. "This is a perfect example of how to turn that understanding into products that are as sophisticated as those developed by 'Mother Nature'."

The new study was detailed online Jan. 23, 2008, in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.