Researchers design gecko-inspired Spider-Man gloves to climb glass
Researchers at Stanford University have developed gloves which allow humans to scale surfaces such as glass, plastic, wood, and painted metal.
The scientists studied the adhesive feet of Tokay geckos to develop non-sticky grip for the gloves. They also looked at previous works into adhesion such a 61cm robot Stickybot that uses technology based on geckos in order to scale vertical surfaces.
The team established that the main problem facing research in this area was a lack of work on scaling efficiency. For instance, “Stickybot had an area of adhesive that should have supported five kilogram based on small-scale tests, but could only support 500 gram owing to inefficient scaling.”
The results were published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface and outlined how the gloves adopt the same attractive and repulsive forces created by nano-fibres in geckos’ feet.
In order to improve the grip and use the technology on a larger scale the researchers developed pads that combine polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and slanted wedges. This technique would enable a climber to attach to a surface by simply applying weight and detach by simply removing this weight.
The outcome of a practical demonstration found two 140cm2 pads allowed a 11 stone person to climb a 3.7 metre high glass wall.
The scientists said: “These results show that gecko-inspired adhesives can be scaled from laboratory-scale tests to human-scale applications with little decrease in performance.”
The research was a collaboration between Stanford University and US’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of their Z-man programme, a project aimed at developing climbing aids for soldiers, removing a need for ropes and ladders.