Beetle biomimicry could allow robots to climb vertical glass walls

by | Submitted Sunday Feb 01, 2009 [02:25 PM]

Microscope image of the biomimetic surface structure of the new adhesive material. The material (green), which was inspired by the soles of insects' feet sticks to the glass (blue). Image courtesy of the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research
Researchers at Max Planck Institute for Metals Research are developing adhesives based on biomimicry of beetles' feet.

The design enables the materials to stick to smooth walls without any adhesives. The researchers say the technology, which uses microhairs "reminiscent of tiny mushrooms", could someday allow robots to climb vertical glass walls and refrigerator magnets to be replaced by non-magnetic objects.

"In rigorous tests carried out by the Max Planck researchers with measuring instruments developed especially for the purpose, the artificial adhesive system gave an impressive performance and demonstrated many benefits. It lasts for hundreds of applications, does not leave any visible marks and can be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water," reads a media release from the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research. "The researchers found that five square centimeters of the material can hold objects weighing up to one hundred grams on walls."

The researchers said smooth structures, like glass, are good bases for the adhesive material but that wallpaper and other rough surfaces do not work well.

"Insects also find it difficult to travel over slightly roughened surfaces - it's a fundamental problem for adhesion mechanisms," explained Project Leader Stanislav Gorb.

The researchers say the biomimetic adhesive work is still some years off from commercialization.

"There's still a lot of work to be done by the Working Group. Something that functions smoothly in the laboratory is a long way away from large-scale production," said Stanislav Gorb

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Tags:biomimicry  robot+navigation  nanotechnology 

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