Imagine how much easier the job of window cleaners would be if they could simply scale walls like Spider-Man instead of using elevators, ladders and other gear. Ever since the first Spider-Man comic appeared children and adults alike have been dreaming of these particular talents. Thanks to “gecko-tape”, these dreams are no longer science fiction. Luckily, this new method of scaling walls doesn’t involve being bit by a radioactive spider.
The technology isn’t derived from spiders, but from geckos. Their feet stick to almost all surfaces without leaving sticky residue. This feat has great potential if mimicked properly. Normal tape usually works when pressed against a surface. The new gecko-tape only works directionally. The big secret to gecko-tape lies in hundreds of thousands of hair-like structures, just like the setae found on gecko toes. All these hairs have special projections on them that can get incredibly close to a surface, so close that the weak sticky interaction occurs between the molecules and the setae. Because there are a tremendous amount of hairs the sticky force becomes significant.
Of course, there are still obstacles to overcome. Climbing walls requires a good athlete, not to mention an eye to safety. Adhesion to rough surfaces like concrete is a lot harder than to smooth surfaces like glass. A lot has to be done before the Spider-Man gloves can be commercialized but it has a lot of promise. I already look forward to putting on my Spider-Man suit and stopping crime.