Innovative adhesive film modelled on nature
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Geckos, spiders and other insects are real climbing artists — their ability even to climb up smooth surfaces without difficulty is partly due to the van der Waals forces — but also to the special mushroom-shaped geometry of their microscopically fine adhesive hairs. A research team from Kiel has now found out why this particular shape is so important for adhesion.
In order to tackle the question as to the mechanical benefits of the mushroom shape for adhesion, an interdisciplinary research team from Kiel University (CAU) including engineering physicist Lars Heepe, biophysicist Alexander Kovalev, theoretical physicist Alexander Filippov and biologist Stanislav Gorb took a closer look at the so-called Gecko Tape — an adhesive tape developed at Kiel University in collaboration with the company Gottlieb Binder GmbH & Co. KG. Its microscopic adhesive elements were inspired by the microscopically small hairs on gecko feet and leaf beetles. It adheres even to wet and slippery surfaces and can be re-used endlessly and removed without leaving any residues.
Uniform stress distribution
“With our experiments, we have been able to unravel an important effect of a very successful adhesion mechanism in nature”, said Heepe, summing up the work of the interdisciplinary scientific team at Kiel University. Their high-speed analysis also confirms a theoretical model recently presented by an Italian group of scientists.
The findings of the Kiel study are not only to be used as a basis for the improvement of existing adhesion structures. They are also, in the framework of the Collaborative Research Centre 677 “Function by Switching”, to help to create photo-switchable adhesion systems. This suggests that it will soon be possible to develop photo-switchable adhesive systems that can be switched between an adhesive and a non-adhesive state by using light of certain wavelengths. The practical benefits of high-performance systems of this kind are obvious.”.