Stick to It

Insects: They creep, they crawl — but could they teach us to stick around?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Beetles and geckos have super sticky feet. Their secret? Tiny mushroom-shaped patches! These patches are a million times smaller than the width of a single hair. Maximumfeet stickiness! Can we recreate this in the lab?

Stanislav Gorb at Kiel University in Germany studies stickiness. Yes, that’s a thing! He set the goal high: make slippery rubber, sticky! His team made patches of various shapes – including mushroom-shaped –on a rubber surface. They tested stickiness by poking each shape with a very small bead. The more force needed to poke it, the stickier the material.

Results? Of the different shapes tested, the mushroom-shaped patches were the stickiest! This shape allows for more contact area with a surface. Talk about stick-to-itiveness!

The scientists envision their mini-shroom sticky patches helping robots grab everyday objects.

So next time you need to “stick the landing” – turn to your trusty neighborhood gekko!