Glue pad lets you stick TVs to walls, holds up to 700 pounds

Researchers demonstrate the strength of Geckskin by taping a giant flatscreen TV to a flat surface.
Written by Tuan Nguyen, Contributor

Installing a theater-sized flat screen television may soon be as easy as taping it to the wall the way you would a movie poster.

It's all made possible by Geckskin, a new invention that can hold up objects as heavy as 700 pounds on a smooth wall. The brainchild of researchers at the University of Massachusetts, the adhesive pad can be released with negligible effort and used over and over again without losing strength. The researchers demonstrated its gripping power by sticking a 42-inch television to a wall, releasing it with a gentle tug and re-sticking it to another surface without leaving any sticky residue.

Like many other super-adhesives in development, the idea came from mimicking the gravity-defying clinging abilities of the gecko. Other examples of gecko-inspired adhesives include geckel, a material that combines a gecko-properties with a synthetic glue-like material found in mussels and a "Super tape" that's strong enough to support the weight of a full grown man.

Holding up 700-pound objects, however, is taking adhesive muscle to a whole other level entirely. The difference with Geckskin is that while previous efforts modeled their designs based on the suction qualities of microscopic hairs on the lizard's toes called setae, the researchers took a different approach that went beyond the legendary gecko-feet.

"A gecko’s foot has several interacting elements, including tendons, bones and skin, that work together to produce easily reversible adhesion, researcher Duncan Irschick explained.

Instead, they created an integrated adhesive by using a soft pad woven into a stiff fabric, allowing the pad to "drape" over a surface to maximize contact. Further, as with natural gecko feet, the skin is woven into a synthetic "tendon," yielding a design that plays a key role in maintaining stiffness and rotational freedom, according to the researchers. The Geckskin pad also uses simple everyday materials such as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), which holds promise for developing an inexpensive, strong and durable dry adhesive.

The researchers hope to improve their Geckskin design by drawing on lessons from the evolution of gecko feet, which has a widely varied anatomy.

"It's a concept that has not been considered in other design strategies," said Alfred Crosby, professor of polymer science and engineering. "One that may open up new research avenues in gecko-like adhesion in the future."

(via New Scientist)

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