Spiderman Becomes a Reality at The University of Manchester

Scientists at The University of Manchester have developed a new type of adhesive, which mimics the mechanism employed by geckos (a type of lizard) to climb surfaces, including glass ceilings.

Researchers within the newly opened Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology at the University have been working on the new adhesive since 2001, after learning the mechanism of gecko’s climbing skills from biophysicists. Now they have been able to manufacture self-cleaning, re-attachable dry adhesives, and the research team believes it won’t be long before ‘Spiderman’ gloves become a reality – particularly useful for rock climbers and window cleaners.

The new adhesive (‘gecko tape’) contains billions of tiny plastic fibres, less than a micrometer in diameter, which are similar to natural hairs covering the soles of geckos.

Dr Irina Grigorieva, Kostya Novoselov, a postdoctoral researcher, and EPSRC visiting fellow Sergey Dubonos, who micro fabricated the structures, worked on the project together with Professor Andre Geim, Director of the Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology. Professor Geim commented: “We have realised that our unique expertise and facilities at the Centre can immediately contribute to this research area, where only biologists and biophysicists could before.

“We have also considered producing a large amount of gecko tape – sufficient amounts to enable a student to hang out of a window of a tall building. However it would cost too much money, and would not benefit us scientifically, so we have limited our demonstration to the gecko toy”.

Many academics and researchers have been working on the elusive ‘gecko tape’, including Bob Full from Berkeley University. He commented: “Geim’s development is very exciting, as uses for the tape are nearly unlimited. In addition to a general adhesive, it can be used to move computer chips in a vacuum, pick up small fibres, and design novel bandages. It’s like Velcro without the need for an opposite!”

The results of the University’s research have been published in the July edition of Nature Materials www.nature.com/materials/. If you would like more information please contact Jo Grady at The University of Manchester Jo Grady on 0161 275 2018, or at jo.grady@man.ac.uk. Images are available on request.

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Materials management deals with the research, development, manufacturing and processing of raw and industrial materials. Key aspects here are biological and medical issues, which play an increasingly important role in this field.

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