from the gecko-not-GEICO dept.
JohnPierce writes with an example where scientists studying a biological phenomenon gained an insight that might be useful with microscale and perhaps nanoscale design and fabrication. Scientists Prove How Geckos Stick, Unlock Secrets To Making Artificial Gecko Glue Scientists Prove How Geckos Stick, Unlock Secrets To Making Artificial Gecko Glue reports that three teams of scientists working in Oregon and California have confirmed that the gekco's amazing climbing ability depends on van der Waals forces, which are intermolecular forces that arise from the size and shape of the tips of the tiny hairs on gecko toes.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Geckos, nature's supreme climbers, can race up a polished glass wall at a meter per second and support their entire body weight from a wall with only a single toe. But the gecko's remarkable climbing ability has remained a mystery since Artistotle [sic] first observed it in fourth century B.C.
Now a team of biologists and engineers has cracked the molecular secrets of the gecko's unsurpassed sticking power–opening the door for engineers to fabricate prototypes of synthetic gecko adhesive.
The researchers were able "to fabricate prototype synthetic foot-hair tips from two different materials," which opened "the door to manufacturing the first biologically inspired dry, adhesive microstructures, which can have widespread applications." The original press release Scientists prove how geckos stick contains links to more information. The research was published in Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA and the abstract is available online: Evidence for van der Waals adhesion in gecko setae