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Secrets of the Gecko Foot Help Robot Climb

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Stanford mechanical engineers with Stickybot

Stanford mechanical engineers Paul Day and Alan Asbeck worked on adhesives for the feet of the gecko-like Stickybot.

Credit: Stanford University

Stanford University engineer Mark Cutkosky has led the development of Stickybot, a robot that can climb up smooth surfaces with feet modeled on the design of gecko toes.

"Unless you use suction cups, which are kind of slow and inefficient, the other solution out there is to use dry adhesion, which is the technique the gecko uses," Cutkosky says. A dry adhesive is key because it requires little effort to attach and detach the robot's feet. "Other adhesives are sort of like walking around with chewing gum on your feet: You have to press it into the surface and then you have to work to pull it off," he says. "But with directional adhesion, it's almost like you can sort of hook and unhook yourself from the surface."

The researchers used a rubber-like material with tiny polymer hairs made from a micro-scale mold to simulate a gecko's foot. View a video of Stanford researchers describing their work on the Stickybot climbing robot.

The researchers new project involves developing the material for humans. In addition, the team is working on a new Stickybot with rotating ankles, which geckos also have, and will enable it to turn in the middle of a climb.

From Stanford University
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