for National Geographic News
Give your tape some real "mussel"!
So might go the ad campaign for "geckel"—a next-generation adhesive inspired by the legendary stickiness of geckos and mollusks—if the product is successfully brought to market.
One of nature's greatest clingers, geckos have long fascinated scientists with the tiny hairs on their feet, which allow the tropical lizards to scurry up walls and across ceilings. (Related: "Will "Gecko Tape" Let Humans Climb Walls?" [June 2, 2003].)
But tapes made by a number of research teams in recent years lose most of their adhesive strength underwater.
Phillip Messersmith, a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, was intrigued by the problem.
He has been making liquid glues for several years based on the adhesive proteins of mussels that allow the mollusks to hold on tight to rocks and docks in even the roughest of waters.
"I thought, Well, what if we try to combine the mussel adhesive proteins ... with a gecko type strategy, which has its own set of properties?" Messersmith said.
"We might have something new and interesting and useful."
The result was geckel, a promising new adhesive described by Messersmith and colleagues in this week's issue of the journal Nature.
Geckel could one day replace stitches to close wounds or allow robots to roll up walls or along the seafloor, Messersmith noted.
Proof of Principal
The "proof of principal" adhesive, as Messersmith describes the few square-millimeter patch of tape, is reusable like a sticky note and works while wet or dry.
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