... does whatever a spider can ...
July 9, 2003 9:11 AM   Subscribe

"[A] team of scientists reports that it has produced a dry, glueless adhesive that would allow humans to scurry across the living-room ceiling." Though still a long way from being practical -- one half-inch square of the prototype is worth around $500k -- this still-developing project never fails to bring a massive grin to my face. And how does it work? Well, you apply a keen knowledge of van der Waals forces combined with an all-consuming interest in gecko podiatrics.

And yes, I suppose this could be considered a double-post, but I much prefer the term follow-up.
posted by grabbingsand (20 comments total)
So let's say I've got all four limbs equipped with adhesive strong enough to hold me to the ceiling, now won't that same adhesive force holding me up there also prevent me from moving?
posted by dgaicun at 9:41 AM on July 9, 2003

so, does that mean you're about to post a brilliant comment that somehow adds to the story grabbingsand?
posted by badstone at 9:43 AM on July 9, 2003

Why move? You're on the ceiling. Be happy.

Seriously though, check out the last link. It sounds like microscopic velcro to me.
posted by trondant at 9:48 AM on July 9, 2003

This has really sent ripples through the rock climbing world. The consensus is that it will make climbing way too easy.
posted by trbrts at 9:53 AM on July 9, 2003

check out the last link

I did before commenting. I still don't get it. Any velcro that's strong enough to stick you to the ceiling isn't going to be "just peeled". It seems like a pretty solid dilemma - being on the ceiling = not just freely crawling around on the ceiling.

Also the second link, y'know the real science link, gave the impression, contary to the first, that we won't even be able to duplicate the strength of the Gecko foot PSI, much less maximize it, and that the strength of the Gecko adhesive might be more analogous to duct tape.
posted by dgaicun at 10:00 AM on July 9, 2003

dgaicun, this is what makes gecko's able to support there body so well. It's not typical glue. If I recall correctly a gecko doesn't get stuck in place because it sort of peels it's feet off the surface. To move your feet you have to undo the van der waal bonds. If you just try to pull them off like raising your foot than you're trying to defeat all the bonds at once. If you were to raise your heel and keep proceeding that way until your toes finally were released you're only ever defeating a small fraction of the bonds at once.
posted by substrate at 10:29 AM on July 9, 2003

dgaicun -

Let's say that 200 lbs of sticking force is distributed over 10 square inches of tape. Then, to peel off a 1 square inch corner of the tape, you only need to extert 20 pounds of force. Since peeling doesn't happen in chunks like that but is instead continuous, you can reduce that force (and therefore area) as much as you want. The trick is to prevent peeling from happening when you don't want it, which is then an issue of controlling the direction you exert force on the tape at any given time. E.g. - don't try to hang yourself from the tape at any angle significantly far from perpendicular.
posted by badstone at 10:30 AM on July 9, 2003

Gecko Tape -- the handyman's secret weapon.
posted by Jughead at 10:30 AM on July 9, 2003

Basically each bond only has a very very tiny amount of attraction. With millions or billions of bonds in total there is a huge amount of attraction, and from your point of view, adhesion.
posted by substrate at 10:31 AM on July 9, 2003

Mmmm duct tape - when you were a kid did you ever take your little brother, mummify him in duct tape and then tape him to the ceiling? It totally rules.
posted by Ryvar at 10:31 AM on July 9, 2003

Maybe velcro and duct tape aren't the most apt analogies, but as I read it, the principle upon which this works is well-understood. The only real problem (and it is a problem, don't get me wrong) is coming up with a man-made material with the same characteristics. What the gecko has discovered, we might yet invent.
posted by trondant at 10:35 AM on July 9, 2003

well, badstone, i don't guarantee brilliance, but i will share my first two thoughts upon reading about the latest developments in gecko tape.

a. wow. wouldn't that be awesome? crawling around on the ceiling like that. yeah, it would be a little like that scary-ass skittering granny in exorcist III, but still... what fun!

b. wait. if i am crawling on the ceiling thanks to a tape that will adhere me to the tiles, isn't it pretty much a given that a simple ceiling tile is going to fail against the weight of the average adult human? this is definitely going to limit how much i can take the ceiling route to get my morning coffee.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:41 AM on July 9, 2003

trondant -

we already have. when this was originally report back in May and June, methods for producing the material were desccribed.
posted by badstone at 10:47 AM on July 9, 2003

[sci-fi rambling]
I suspect that ultimate way that this stuff will be made is not by creating a bunch of hairs, but instead by coating a surface with self-asssembling nanotech that is programmed to grow fractally, approaching an infinite surface area. I give it 5 years.
[\sci-fi rambling]
posted by badstone at 10:54 AM on July 9, 2003

14 posts without a Lionel Richie joke? You guys dissapoint me.
posted by bondcliff at 11:40 AM on July 9, 2003

posted by badstone at 12:57 PM on July 9, 2003

substrate + badstone, thanks for the interesting illustrations. I should have thought about it with a little more depth.

Now that we know how Night-Crawler does that, how does he do the teleport thing? . . . And what's up with the blue dust?
posted by dgaicun at 1:13 PM on July 9, 2003

van der Waals forces

I guess I was mistaken -- I thought that geckos got around by using "Climb der Waals" forces.

credit to evilviper @ /. =)
posted by joquarky at 1:31 PM on July 9, 2003

Yike. If I told that joke I wouldn't want credit! I'd release it into the public domain and destroy any evidence that could connect me to it...
posted by jonson at 1:46 PM on July 9, 2003

This glue is a nightmarish thought to city dwellers who thought they could escape city crime by living in tall buildings.
posted by troutfishing at 3:27 PM on July 9, 2003

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