Nanogecko Glue

From Ben Lepene, CEO of Safe NanoMaterials:Florida 'Lizard' from Anne Celland's other home town, Tampa, Florida

L. Dai (University of Dayton) and his colleagues at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and Georgia Institute of Technology have developed some interesting technology that aims to replicate a gecko lizard’s innate ability to defy gravity.  In the October 10th issue of Science, they describe their work using vertically aligned arrays of carbon nanotubes to replicate reversible adhesion associated with the gecko’s transient climbing ability.

Three things a layperson needs to know about nanogecko glue:

  1. The gecko lizard’s hanging ability results from van der Waal forces (attractive forces between molecules) generated by the contact of their microcopic elastic hairs (spatulae) with surfaces.  This adhesion is shear-dependent and reversible, allowing for the binding and release characteristics required for locomotion.
  2. Dai and his colleagues fabricated arrays of carbon nanotubes with “hairy” carbon chains on their ends that mimic the microscopic hair on gecko feet.  As the carbon-hair drags across a surface, the contact area is maximized along with adhesive van der Waal forces. (Adhesion is reported to be 10x greater than that generated by gecko-feet)
  3. Gecko glue only works in dry environments (think space and electronic applications).

I think the challenge will be to find a useful application for this technology.  Right now I would guess that Bradley Edwards and his friends at NASA might be able to use gecko glue in their attempt to fabricate a climber for their space elevator.

If that fails, perhaps we’ll see some gecko glue being incorporated into future electronic components in order to reduce thermal damage resulting from traditional soldering.

For more information:
Mimicking gecko feet leads to new dry adhesive based on carbon nanotubes – Nanowerk, 10/9/08
Gecko-like glue said to be stickiest yet – Comcast News, 10/9/08
Synthetic Adhesive Mimics Sticking Powers Of Gecko And Mussel – Science Daily, 7/18/07
Sticking with gecko glue – Hero, 2003

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Thanks, Ben!  And thanks to my lovely friend in Tampa, Florida for sending me the nanogecko photo!

For more information about all things nanotechnology, please contact:

Ben Lepene, CEO
Safe NanoMaterials
540-230-7378   

Safe NanoMaterials provides proactive nanotoxicology services for the assessment and reduction of potential environmental and health impacts associated with engineered nanomaterials.

Safe NanoMaterials, Inc., is a member company of business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks, located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, a technology park, a research park, and a science park on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.  The research park provides high-technology companies access to university faculty, university facilities, university equipment, and business-related support services.  The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center fosters commercialization and technology transfer of university research for both high-tech start-up companies and established technology businesses.

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