Can a gecko stick to Teflon? Science finds the answer

Researchers at the University of Akron have done some experiments to see how geckos fare against Teflon — with surprising results.

(Credit: Shining star image by Dan Bodenstein, CC BY 2.0)

Researchers at the University of Akron have done some experiments to see how geckos fare against Teflon — with surprising results.

Geckos can run on some very smooth vertical and upside-down surfaces, including glass, thanks to their feet. If you have a look at a gecko's toes, you'll see that they're covered in ridges that run from side to side. These ridges — known as lamellae — are made up of thousands of microscopic fibres made of keratin called setae, the same substance from which hair, fingernails, and claws are formed.

(Credit: Lamellae image by Matt Reinbold, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Setae are what give the gecko its amazing ability to grip onto surfaces where other animals would have difficulty finding purchase. But what about Teflon?

Unsurprisingly, as discovered by students at the University of Akron's Auburn Science Centre, where researchers study the reptiles' adhesive feet, the little guys have trouble finding purchase. But when doctoral candidate Alyssa Stark, who has been studying how geckos adapt to wet environments, added water to the surface, the result was surprising.

The geckos could cling to the wet Teflon.

This is consistent with Stark and her team's previous research, which revealed that, so long as a surface repelled water — such as a waxy leaf or, say, Teflon — the gecko could stick to it.

Geckos' setae have inspired a super-grippy sticky-tape that is yet to hit the market. The team at the University of Akron believe that studying geckos' feet could provide the key to an adhesive that can stick even under water.

The team, led by Dr Ali Dhinojwala, will be releasing a new study within the next few months that they hope will lead to some major product developments.

Via phys.org

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About the author

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

 

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