Gecko-Inspired Adhesive Sticks And Releases On Command

Scientists have developed a method to integrate nanostructured hydrogel fibers on an inorganic membrane to mimick the gecko’s sticking and detaching mechanism.

AsianScientist (May 10, 2017) – Researchers from the Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, have created a double-sided adhesive that mimics the ability of lizards to reversibly stick to different surfaces, even in wet conditions. Their results, published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, could be useful in underwater robotics, sensors and other bionic devices.

Inspired by geckos’ natural ability to attach and release their feet from surfaces as slick as glass, scientists have made a number of adhesives that can similarly stick and unstick with changes in temperature, light or magnetic field, but mostly in dry conditions.

One promising approach to expanding this to underwater scenarios involves hydrogels that can swell and shrink in response to different acidity levels and other conditions. These volume differences change the gels’ friction and stickiness levels.

In previous work, the researchers developed a method to integrate nanostructured hydrogel fibers on an inorganic membrane. The material’s friction and stickiness levels changed with pH even when wet. The researchers wanted to further expand on this strategy to make the adhesive work on two sides.

They first made the inorganic membrane double-faced and then added the hydrogel nanofibers on both sides. Testing showed that the material exhibited ultra-high friction and adhesion in an acidic liquid (pH of 2), and would rapidly switch to a state of ultra-low friction and stickiness when a basic solution (pH of 12) was added. Additionally, the two sides of the material can stick and slide independently of each other.

The article can be found at: Ma et al. (2017) Nanohydrogel Brushes for Switchable Underwater Adhesion.


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Pixabay.
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