Geckel Adhesive Has Gecko-Mussel Foot Power

The gecko: master of dry surface stickiness - if your hand had that much stickum, you could pick up 90 pounds open-handed. The mussel: master of wet surface stickiness - it can stick to Teflon underwater.


(Gecko foot - Mussel foot)

What would you get if you could combine the power of these two masters of adhesion? Geckel, that's what. A new adhesive that actually exhibits strong yet reversible adhesion in wet environments.

“The geckel material should be useful for reversible attachment to a variety of surfaces in any environment,” said Phillip B. Messersmith, professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and an author of the paper. “I envision that adhesive tapes made out of geckel could be used to replace sutures for wound closure and may also be useful as a water-resistant adhesive for bandages and drug-delivery patches. Such a bandage would remain firmly attached to the skin during bathing but would permit easy removal upon healing.”

Their geckel material can stick through as many as one thousands contact/release cycles (that's a gecko strong point) and perform extremely well underwater with high adhesion (mussel).

Messersmith and Lee imitated a gecko's foot by nanofabricating arrays of silicone pillars that exhibit enough flexibility to adapt to rough surfaces. Next they brought in the mussel power, coating the pillars with a very thin layer of a synthetic polymer, designed by the researchers, that mimics the wet adhesive mussel proteins.

The researchers measured the performance of the geckel material using an atomic force microscope. They found that pillar arrays coated with the mussel-mimetic polymer improved wet adhesion 15-fold over uncoated pillar arrays. (The pillars in the arrays tested were 400 nanometers in diameter and 600 nanometers high.)

If you're rooting for slipperiness, learn about the Anti-Adhesive Surfaces of Plants. Read more at Northwestern University.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/20/2007)

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