With its Tom Cruise-like talent for scattering straight up walls, the gecko has become one of biomimicry’s favored muses. Studying its feet, scientists have come up with a variety of gecko-inspired tapes, but now a team at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has developed a stronger adhesive patch they’re calling “Geckskin.”
A piece of the stuff about the size of an index card can hold up to 700 pounds of weight on a smooth wall. That’s a 42-inch flatscreen TV or a mirror or that Dutch masterpiece you picked up on your last European vacation. And if you get the placement wrong, no problem — you can peel this stuff off the wall and smack it back on without leaving a trace, supposedly.
This particular team of scientists wasn’t just interested in geckos’ feet, which are brushed with tiny hairs that help them stick to walls. That tech works fine for a two-ounce lizard, but doesn’t work at TV scale. So this team also looked at gecko tendons, which connect bone to skin instead of bone to muscle, like most critters’ tendons do. This connection helps geckos stick and unstick to walls with ease. They then mimicked this system using fabric and rubber.
The only catch, as far as we’re concerned, is that Geckskin works on smooth surfaces “like glass,” the UMass researchers say. What about the slanting, bumpy, much-painted and patched walls of a pre-war East Village walk-up?