Can we harness the power of gecko feet to climb buildings?

We have a lot to learn from nature's best climbers.

Internet Culture

Published Nov 27, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 2:56 am CDT

BY JAMES GORMAN

An irresistible attraction to gecko feet is an occupational hazard for engineers who study how one thing sticks to another. Geckos can climb just about anything, including glass, and in 2002 scientists identified the force of molecular attraction that bonds dry gecko foot pads to a surface.

Engineers copied nature’s invention with synthetic gecko-inspired materials, but the artificial materials didn’t work well with heavy loads like the roughly 150-pound body weight of Elliot W. Hawkes, a Stanford graduate student in mechanical engineering.

He was part of a team that developed a climbing rig outfitted with gecko-inspired sticky pads. And he stars in a video demonstrating their accomplishment by ascending a short distance up a vertical glass surface.

He readily acknowledges that he looks nothing like Spider-Man. “The whole idea of a Spider-Man suit just ignores ergonomics,” he said. “We don’t have the upper body strength that a gecko has.”

Read more in the New York Times.

Screengrab via the New York Times

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*First Published: Nov 27, 2014, 1:00 pm CST