Scientists figure out how we can (really!) climb like Spider-Man

Contributed by
Dec 16, 2012

We've all probably had the thought at some point in our lives, whether watching the movies or reading an old comic: I want to climb a building, Spider-Man style. Just grab ahold of the brick and shoot right up a 90-degree angle.

Well, thanks to some new research into gecko feet, that day might not be too far off.
A biologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, along with a team of polymer scientists, have been studying how the sticky-toed lizards are able to grip and release surfaces without the benefit of a radioactive spider biteā€”and they believe they've finally figured it out.

The team has developed a device they call Geckskin, and the results are pretty impressive. The reusable prototype can hold a 42-inch television to a wall for an indefinite amount of time, then release with a gentle tug. No residue, no muss, and no fuss.

"Our Geckskin device is about 16 inches square, about the size of an index card, and can hold a maximum force of about 700 pounds while adhering to a smooth surface such as glass," researcher Alfred Crosby told ZeeNews.

Now, all we have to do is convert this stuff into a suit, and let the crime fighting begin!

So how does it work? The team created an adhesive with a soft pad woven into a stiff fabric to work from. The unique design allows the pad to "drape" over a surface to maximize contact. Mimicking the lizard foot even further, the weave includes a synthetic "tendon" that allows flexibility but keeps the grip tight.

"It's a concept that has not been considered in other design strategies and one that may open up new research avenues in gecko-like adhesion in the future," Crosby said.

The coolest part? The pad is made from fairly cheap, everyday materials, so it shouldn't be too expensive to mass-produce once they perfect the design.

(via ZeeNews).