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Gecko foot hair leading to self-cleaning adhesives

The future development of products like industrial adhesives could lie not in sophisticated engineering advancements, or sophisticated science, but in something far more unlikely – the gecko.

Researchers who have been studying the self-cleaning and reusable capabilities of a gecko's foot hair, have been looking at how sticky substances, such as heat resistant adhesives, could benefit from the animal’s natural adhesive properties.
University of Akron mechanical engineering student Shihao Hu, and a recent biology graduate Stephanie Lopez-Chueng of Keiser University in Tampa, Florida, USA, and their colleagues recently discovered that the self-cleaning mechanism observed in the microscopic foot hairs of the gecko is achieved through the hyperextension of its toes.
"The analysis reveals that geckos have tiny sticky hairs on their toes called setaes, and due to the attaching and detaching mechanism caused by the rolling and peeling motion of their toes as they walk, they release the dirt particles leaving their feet clean," said Mr Hu.
"The dynamic hyperextension effect of its natural toe peeling increases the speed of the cleaning to nearly twice as fast as previously perceived."
The researchers suggested their findings show that a 'gecko-inspired' adhesive could function under conditions where traditional adhesives do not, such as space or water exploration.
"Through biomimicry, a gecko-inspired adhesive can function under conditions where traditional adhesives do not, such as in a vacuum, outer space or under water," said study partner Dr. Peter Niewiarowski.
"More broadly, a gecko-inspired adhesive would be able to bind materials together very strongly yet also release very easily. Imagine a tape that binds things together securely like duct tape yet can also be removed and reused over and over again like a post-it note."
The research is published in InterfaceFind Article, the Journal of the Royal Society.

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