Octopus-Inspired Adhesive Pads Are Suckers For Transfer Printing

Researchers have designed adhesive pads that mimic the suckers on octopus tentacles.

AsianScientist (Jul. 20, 2016) – Korean scientists have developed smart adhesive pads that suck, quite literally, like the suction cups on octopus’s tentacles.

Although flexible pressure sensors might give future prosthetics and robots a better sense of touch, building them currently requires laborious transferring of nano- and micro-ribbons of inorganic semiconductor materials onto polymer sheets.

In search of an easier way to process transfer printing, scientists from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology and Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) turned to octopus suction cups for inspiration.

Led by Professor Ko Hyunhub of the UNIST School of Energy and Chemical Engineering, the researchers designed flexible pressure sensors that mimic the suction cups on octopus tentacles. The research was published in Advanced Materials.

An octopus uses the suction cups underneath each tentacle to latch onto surfaces, helping it move around. Each suction cup contains a cavity, the pressure inside which is controlled by surrounding muscles. These can be made thinner or thicker on demand, increasing or decreasing air pressure inside the cup, allowing for sucking and releasing as desired.

Ko and his team engineered smart adhesive pads that mimic this muscle movement. They used the rubbery material polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) to create an array of microscale suckers, which included pores that are coated with a thermally-responsive polymer. The best way to replicate the organic nature of muscle contractions, the team discovered, was through applied heat.

Indeed, at room temperature, the walls of each pit sit in an ‘open’ state. But when the mat is heated to 32°C, the walls contract, creating suction. This action allows the entire adhesive mat to stick to a material, similar to the suction function of an octopus. In tests, the mat was shown to be able to move materials around.

The researchers say that their smart adhesive pads can be used in wearable health sensors, such as Band-Aids or sensors that stick to the skin at normal body temperatures but fall off when rinsed under cold water.

The article can be found at: Lee et al. (2016) Octopus-Inspired Smart Adhesive Pads for Transfer Printing of Semiconducting Nanomembranes.


Source: Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology; Photo: Pixabay.
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