"Scientists have designed an extremely sticky patterned adhesive, which is twice as sticky as flat tapes used for similar purposes. The new glue-free adhesive can also stick to dusty surfaces better, can be washed with soap and water, and can be reused multiple times."
A team of researchers from the Evolutionary Biomaterials Group at the Max Plank Institute (Stuttgart) and the Biologically Inspired Robotics Laboratory at Case Western Reserve (Cleveland) studied 300 insect species to understand how they can walk on smooth surfaces, both vertical and overhead.
The principles discovered let to "insect tape", a flexible polyvinyl-siloxane material with a microstructure that increases adhesion at least two-fold over an unstructured polymer tape of the same material. The "insect tape" is reusable, remaining sticky for many cycles even when applied to dusty surfaces. Washing the tape in soapy water restores the initial stickiness. Large surfaces up to 500 square centimeters have been produced. Although other artificial adhesive materials share some of these characteristics, few materials satisfy all of them.
The tape allowed the 120 gram Mini-Whegs(TM) robot to easily climb glass walls. Other applications include manipulating lenses, CDs and other smooth objects, and providing controlled adhesion to glass surfaces that could be damaged by traditional adhesives.
The paper Insects did it first: a micropatterned adhesive tape for robotic applications can be downloaded for free from the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.
Thanks to Dayna Baumeister for the pointer!