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Scientists Developing Commercially Viable Synthetic Gecko 122

Gordon from Seattle writes to mention a CNN article about a new way to hang out. A British aerospace team is working on a super-sticky substance they're calling "Synthetic Gecko". It mimics the hairs on a gecko's foot, and may eventually be developed as a reusable adhesive. From the article: "Each of the microscopic setae on a gecko's foot has a mushroom shaped cap on the end, less than one-thousandth of a millimeter across. This ensures that the gecko's foot is in very close contact with the surface beneath. The cumulative attractive force, called van der Waals force, of these setae allows the lizard to scurry up walls and ceilings, and even hang from polished glass surfaces. In 2003 scientists at the University of Manchester produced a one centimeter patch of 'gecko tape,' but neither the University of Manchester nor University of California teams managed to produce the material in a greater quantity, unlike Haq and Sargent, who have already tested areas larger than 10 centimeters-squared."
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Scientists Developing Commercially Viable Synthetic Gecko

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  • SpiderMan (Score:3, Funny)

    by Secret Rabbit ( 914973 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:34AM (#17190540) Journal
    I can hardly wait! When this is out I can /really/ play Spiderman!!
  • I get the feeling the scientists said they're switching to Geico as their insurer, and the reporter got it all mixed up.

    I mean, one can legitimately mistake "gecko" and "Geico".
  • by tulsaoc3guy ( 755854 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:38AM (#17190564)
    This story is reminiscent of the intrepid discoverers of the elusive Velcro animal of 40 years ago.
  • long as the synthetic geckos aren't made into shill whores for low rent insurance companies.
  • Surface Dust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:43AM (#17190596) Journal
    Every surface outside of a clean room is coated with dust. Unless there is some cleaning mechanism, this will clog with dust and become non-sticky. Geckos probably lick their feet clean every once in a while, or have some other bio-mechanism to decontaminate their feet. How will this syntha-gecko sticky pad keep clean?
  • Wasn't one of the problems with the "gecko tape" that it was "too" sticky?
    That is; _everything_ sticks to it, thus all the dust/dirt/hair/etc. would make the tape unusable in a short time.

    Obviously, real geckos don't have this problem. You don't see them walking around with sticks, dirt and sand stuck to their feet, so how do they solve that?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Geckoes continually "shed" the hair on their feet, and regrow new hairs. So any hairs that do happen to get extremely dirty are naturally discarded after some time, and replaced with newly-grown clean hairs.

    • See this post [], which answered another post asking nearly the exact same question as you.
      • by Elminst ( 53259 )
        His post wasn't there when I started typing mine.
        Good info.
        (though i don't think I needed to be down-modded.)
        • I agree. I had mod points, and replied to you instead of modding you down. I think the redundant mod shouldn't lower karma, because it would be nice to get the second of duplicate posts out of the way, just for clarity of discussion, but there is no reason why the second person should be hurt by it. Perhaps it already doesn't reduce karma. I dunno.
  • all true (Score:4, Funny)

    by deevnil ( 966765 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:45AM (#17190618)
    I've seen a lizard leap onto a pane of glass and scurry up - almost gave up the hunt but I didn't want it freaking me out in the middle of the night. They're as sticky as that protective film that people never remove from the plastic faceplates on radios /and/ they change colors, formidable pests. If only we could crack the secrets of lizard technology.. Cars that run on flies with tires that could adhere to any surface...
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by freewaybear ( 906222 )
      Cars that run on flies with tires that could adhere to any surface...

      Do the cars have tires that adhere to any surface, or is it the flies that have the tires?
      (Couldn't help it) :)
    • Pests?!

      They eat cockroaches. Treat them like the Egyptians treated the cats around their granaries.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Anything that crawls across my face in the middle of the night and scares the living crap out of me is a pest. Be that lizards, spiders, daddy-long-legs, cockroaches, cats or alien face huggers.
    • by salec ( 791463 ) that could adhere to any surface
      Now, that IS a good idea! Tires are good if they adhere well.
      • by Vreejack ( 68778 )
        I doubt it would work any better on ice. The surface of ice (unless it is extremely cold) is always a thin layer of liquid water due to surface tension properties of the unattached hydrogen bonds. But since this is an exercise in surface characteristics it would be an interesting experiment to try. What if gecko feet reduce the monolayer of liquid?

        Having good adherence to sand is also not very useful since you just cover the tire with loose sand. But perhaps good adherence to a clean road might help, th
        • by salec ( 791463 )
          Gecko feet would probably capillary "drink of" and absorb at least some part of that thin layer of water, like a brush or a mop does. Anyway, although at present certainly much more expensive, even if it wouldn't be much better, I am sure it wouldn't be any worse either, compared to common tire rubber.
          • Modern winter tires do that already. The top layer of the tire has microscopic pores to wick away the water from the ice. It wears quickly on pavement though, so this construction is only used in dedicated winter tires.
  • "Although the defendant manufactures and sells these 'GeckoBoots' to the public, the public is not warned that the average kitchen ceiling is painted and thus not an appropriate surface for the GeckoBoots, nor is the public warned against attempting to use GeckoBoots near a dishdrainer filled with glasses and knives...."

  • Pretty sure that some geckos are amphibious. So in effect, their environment would clean their feet.
  • Geko Hunt (Score:3, Funny)

    by dark grep ( 766587 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:51AM (#17190662)
    That will come as a great relief to the gecko population around my neighbourhood - which I hunt and tie to my hands and feet to I can hang out on the ceiling.
  • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:51AM (#17190670) Journal
    Can you imagine the rock climbing possibilities!

    As a rock climber, this is too cool.

    Trad, Sport and Gecko? That would be something.
    • I think this guy [] already has it.
  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:51AM (#17190672) Homepage Journal
    {insert Mozilla joke here}
  • Here are some more slashdot stories concerning Gecko feet.

    Gecko's Feet Power New RAM Chips []

    Gecko Feet and Antigravity []

    Gecko Feet Inspire Sticky Tape []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:00AM (#17190752)
    Tastes just like real gecko!
  • by RMB2 ( 936187 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:11AM (#17190838)
    One square meter of the stuff on a small family sized car could save you up to 15%
  • by Tmack ( 593755 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:13AM (#17190854) Homepage Journal
    As the subject states, Ive had some cycling gloves with matching bar tape for several years now with similar tech... 3M makes the stuff called Greptile, thats basically a material with a bunch of tiny hair like things on one side. When used with a similar material on whatever you want to grip, its almost like having velcro, but being able to let go with out having to pull it apart. It was designed along the same lines as well, hence the name:

    Greptile []

    Worked pretty well, and even improved the grip between the gloves and stuff that didn't have the material on it. Only problem was the haird tend to wear out/fall off over time, so now those gloves have a few bald spots where the rubberish material has worn through and they aren't nearly as grippy


  • DONT DO IT! (Score:5, Funny)

    by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:16AM (#17190880)
    Before you even try...Do NOT use this to masturbate!!! Seriously, you WILL regret it.
  • A synthetic gecko, or synthetic gecko-derived adhesives?
  • Why would I want a synthetic lizard when I can buy a real lizard at the pet store? The last thing I need is a glow-in-the-dark lizard blending in with the blue lights on my computer at night.
    • >> Why would I want a synthetic lizard when
      I can buy a real lizard at the pet store? The
      last thing I need is a glow-in-the-dark
      lizard blending in with the blue lights
      on my computer at night.

      Why would I want a REAL gecko climbing up my walls, eating bugs,
      falling in my soup, etc,
      when I can have a SYNTHETIC one powering my Firefox?
      OMIGEK, it's DEJA VU! []
  • Gecko Gloves (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:35AM (#17190996) Homepage
    I keep waiting for someone to make these into Spidey gloves... would be pretty cool at first, til everyone realizes they don't lock their attic windows. Companies wondering how someone got inside when everything was locked, etc... it would completely change security practices. Pretty neat though when they figure out someone crawled in a skylight, across the ceiling and down the wall behind the cameras.

    Still I hope someone makes these, it'll start some new extreme sport craze... wall-ball or something. Whee!
    • ...It doesn't scale linearly. You would need a heck of a lot to stick a human to a wall.

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        It doesn't scale? I've pulled geckos off walls and stuff (even when they die of old age/etc they still stay stuck), and they sure stick pretty well, so given the surface area of a fair number of gecko feet, I'm not sure why that wouldn't hold up a human - at least a not too obese one (an obese tummy might get in the way of wall crawling too ;) ).
        • by arete ( 170676 )
          It might not scale for other reasons, but it DEFINITELY doesn't scale for the same reason any surface effect doesn't scale.

          We're going to make something 10x as long (which assumes a ~20 cm Gecko to get to man-sized, which I think is generous.)

          So the surface area of the giant-gecko feet are 100x bigger. (10^2 - because you have length and width) But the Gecko ways 1000x as much (lenght, width, depth) So for a 10x scaling factor in length, you have 10x more mass PER surface area - in other words you stick
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TheLink ( 130905 )
            "Irschick et al. (1996) showed that two front feet of a tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) produced 20.1 N of force parallel to the surface with 227 mm2 of pad area".

            So a pad area of 15mm x 15mm can hold about 2kg. So a pad area of 10cm x 10cm ( 4" x 4") should be able to hold about 90 to 100kg (200-220 pounds). Attaching four pads each of that area to a human doesn't seem like a big problem, and should provide a fair safety margin.

            That's of course assuming the synthetic gecko pad performs as well as the tokay's.

          • by British ( 51765 )
            Your post reminded me of "velcro wall jumping" as seen on David Letterman. Wear a suit made of all velcro, and jump onto a sturdy wall of the other half of velcro. You stick to the wall.
      • by Joebert ( 946227 )
        This much ? []
    • Every tried hanging upside down AND crawling? You need Gecko knee pads, not Gecko shoes. Our muscle mass is designed to hold us upright, not, upside down.

      • Every tried hanging upside down AND crawling?
        Sorry, it's been a while since my last crack delusion. Though I saw it in Trainspotting recently.
    • by ag0ny ( 59629 )
      That might not be so far off. A friend of mine has been working on something like that implemented with magnets, also based on the gecko's feet.

      There's a video showing the system here: []
  • Gecko? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by ndogg ( 158021 )
    Will this synthetic gecko bug me about my auto-insurance company?
  • I have no doubt that The Military has possessed this technology since, at the very latest, 1952.
  • 1st of all this is not going to work for your average adult human.

    Why you might ask? Well I knew you would, well at least in your head.

    Besides sticking to things, you have to take into consideration basic human body mechanics. Yeah I know, reality is so pesky! Consider things that climb, and climb well. Lizards, Monkeys, insects, all the fauna in natures lovely wild kingdom. What do they all in common? Well, since you asked, and I knew you would, even if it was in your own head. Here is your answer

    • Two words


      Our legs might be way longer than our arms, but from the butt to the knee is just the right length for some serious wall crawling. With an entire body suit of the stuff you could for example use an entire arm to hang climb up instead of just your hands and feet.
      • by zCyl ( 14362 )
        Two words


        Brilliance like that is why we're still beating those superstrong gorillas. :)
    • by TheLink ( 130905 )
      1) I'm sure humans are adaptable and can figure things out- you don't have to fasten the sticky bits to the feet and hands y'know. Especially when humans are likely to want to have their hands and fingers free to manipulate stuff - opening/fixing stuff or answering the phone and checking email 100 metres up in the air ;).

      Also if the sticky bits are at the knee/shins and not the feet, you could hang by the forearm pads and then peel off+use the feet to jump at the same time. Harder to do that if the sticky b
  • Hello, Human Fly here! Come on, I spent all night dying my underwear.
  • Support garments are the obvious future for this product. No more straps, clamps, harness... Body parts will look more natural, move more gracefully, conform better, and beachwear will be truly stunning!

    This will change important parts of our lives more than any recent technology development.
    • I was watching Futurama the other day, and Amy had on her Turquoise Reveal-O-Dress [] I began to wonder how to put together a dress like this in this century. I was thinking of a fine mesh for the revealed parts, but if Geck-o-Tape becomes a reality, woohoo!, the fashion world will definitely change.
  • This special kind of biomimetics [] is also being researched elsewhere, for example at the Max-Planck-Institute in Stuttgart, Germany. An insightful article can be downloaded from here [].
  • this commercially viable synthetic gecko [] has been around for years.
  • I see a "commercially viable synthetic gecko" on TV all the time. It tries to sell me car insurance.
  • Sorry, wrong article. I wanted Geico, not Gekko.
  • ... even a caveman can use it? (ducks)

I've got a bad feeling about this.