In this case, the elastic adhesive pulls tighter to the surface to which it is attached, increasing its stickiness.
The combined properties of the microchannels and fluids increased surface adhesion of the elastic material by about 30 times, according to the researchers.
And since the material itself is elastic, it is reusable.
"You get stickiness without getting stickiness—in the sense that you get a sticky material that doesn't leave anything behind," said Jagota of Lehigh University.
The researchers created a piece of adhesive large enough to hold a cover slip on a microscope slide.
But it can be made bigger and used in several applications, according to Ghatak.
For example, the tape could be used to help baseball and cricket players keep their gloves on, he said, or to keep price tags on supermarket goods.
Another potential use is for the feet of wall-climbing robots.
Jon Barnes studies tree frog adhesion at the University of Glasgow. In a related commentary in Science, he noted that car tires patterned after tree frog toe pads are in production.
Barnes said he expects even more such discoveries in the future.
"In this area of materials science," he wrote, "biomimetics [taking design ideas from nature] is certainly coming of age."
Free Email News Updates
Sign up for our Inside National Geographic newsletter. Every two weeks we'll send you our top stories and pictures (see sample).
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES