Science

Biologically inspired adhesive tape can be reused thousands of times

Biologically inspired adhesive...
Surrounded by other team members, Achim Oesert from the University of Kiel hangs from the ceiling using bioinspired polymer tape (Image: University of Kiel) alongside an image of a gecko (Image: Wahj via Flickr)
Surrounded by other team members, Achim Oesert from the University of Kiel hangs from the ceiling using bioinspired polymer tape (Image: University of Kiel) alongside an image of a gecko (Image: Wahj via Flickr)
View 1 Image
Surrounded by other team members, Achim Oesert from the University of Kiel hangs from the ceiling using bioinspired polymer tape (Image: University of Kiel) alongside an image of a gecko (Image: Wahj via Flickr)
1/1
Surrounded by other team members, Achim Oesert from the University of Kiel hangs from the ceiling using bioinspired polymer tape (Image: University of Kiel) alongside an image of a gecko (Image: Wahj via Flickr)

As is so often the case these days for those searching for a better way to stick stuff together, researchers from the Zoological Institute at the University of Kiel in Germany have turned to the biology of gravity-defying ceiling walkers, such as geckos and insects. These creatures served as inspiration for a new dry adhesive tape that not only boasts impressive bonding strength, but can also be attached and detached thousands of times without losing its adhesive properties.

The secret to the wall climbing ability of many insects and geckos lies in the thousands of tiny hairs called setae that cover their feet and legs. The sheer abundance of these hairs, coupled with flattened tips that can splay out to maximize contact on even rough surface areas, make it sufficient for the Van der Waals forces, which operate at a molecular level and are relatively weak compared to normal chemical bonds, to provide the requisite adhesive strength that allows them to scurry along walls and ceilings.

It is this technique that the research group, led by Stanislav Gorb, have mimicked with their silicone tape. By patterning the tape with tiny hairs similar to setae, they created a tape that was at least two times harder to pull off of a surface than a flat tape of the same material. Additionally, the bioinspired tape leaves no sticky residue, can also work underwater, and can be repeatedly peeled off thousands of times without losing its ability to grip.

Providing an illustration of the adhesive properties of the new tape, a 20 x 20 cm (7.87 in) square piece was able to support the weight of one team member dangling from the ceiling.

The researchers are also looking to nature in the form of beetle coverwings, snake skin, and anti-adhesive plants, for inspiration for other bioinspired materials.

The University of Kiel team presented their findings at the AVS Symposium held in Nashville earlier this month.

15 comments
Anumakonda Jagadeesh
Yet another case of adopting from Mother nature.
Mirmillion
Love these guys. They are on the right track when they are looking for anti-adhesive properties in plants as well. I hope some large company doesn\'t acquire their ideas and suppress them in order to keep selling one-use disposable adhesives.
William H Lanteigne
Of course, if the reusable tape is ever applied to a dirty, dusty, or greasy surface, it\'s rendered useless; and, of course, the effect would be cumulative, losing a bit of adhesion each time it\'s used, due to dust in the air settling onto most surfaces.
Kirill Belousov
Very cool!
Maury Markowitz
\"Providing an illustration of the adhesive properties of the new tape, a 20 x 20 cm (7.87 in) square piece was able to support the weight of one team member dangling from the ceiling.\" That\'s great, but that\'s a useless number for comparison. I note that every explanation of this tape\'s strength is compared to itself or nothing at all. That makes me suspect this isn\'t very strong tape. So how much duct tape do you need, or double sided carpet tape, to lift the same person?
Slowburn
re; Maury Markowitz Several square yards.
Gregg Eshelman
Get this into mass production and smart criminals will love it. They\'ll be able to tape things up without leaving fingerprints in the adhesive. That\'s caught many criminals who thought they\'d cleaned up everything.
Marcus Carr
@Slowburn, how do you figure that? It looks from the picture as though the guy is holding onto a suction pad for handling glass, which is presumably holding onto the tape, in turn taped to the glass. Assuming a good seal to the pad, a 20x20 square of duct tape would seem very trustworthy to me, as pulling it straight off the glass requires a huge amount of force. I wouldn\'t be surprised if 20x20 of cello tape could hold a person under the same conditions.
er2joe
How will they keep the tape from sticking to itself?
Slowburn
re; Marcus Carr I have worked with the stuff, and watched Mythbusters.