Geckskin Adhesive ‘tape’ – In the news
Stephanie M, Casterton Secondary College
At some point or another, we have all been the victim of common adhesive tapes. These are used to mend broken objects, such as Nanna’s Vase, which definitely fell from the table on its own, to adhere pieces of paper to each other and to hang posters from the walls. As we would know, this is only a temporary solution as the adhesive does not last; the vase eventually collapses, the papers fall out from books, and the posters droop sadly from the walls. In contrast, some adhesive tapes are so sticky that they are bold enough to leave tacky residue as a reminder of their works. Since February 2012, this has been improved by the invention of Geckskin adhesive tape. [https://geckskin.umass.edu/, 16/06/16].
The creators, polymer scientist Alfred Crosby and biologist Duncan Irschick, with the assistance of doctoral candidate Mike Bartlett [https://geckskin.umass.edu/, 16/06/16], ensured Geckskin does not have these problems. Geckskin mimics adhesion found on toes and feet of a Gecko [https://www.cns.umass.edu/about/newsletter/may-2012/inspired-by-gecko-feet-scientists-invent-super-adhesive-material, 16/06/16]. This enables the tape to adhere to a range of smooth surfaces, utilising a technique known as “draping adhesion”. In this, a soft rubber, known as an elastomer, adapts to fill the slots of the surface. This is then held firm by a stiff fabric such as glass or carbon fibres. [https://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/gecko-adhesives-now-useful-real-world, 16/06/16]. This technique allows the tape to adhere strongly and conform to the surface. However, Geckskin also is able to be removed on demand [https://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/gecko-adhesives-now-useful-real-world, 16/06/16].
In the process of engineering Geckskin, the biological principle of adaptation was explored. This was inspired by the physiological adaptation of a gecko, which enables them to scale smooth surfaces. This in conjunction with organic chemistry, biophysics and nanotechnology to imitate the adhesive techniques of a Gecko. Biophysics was utilised to investigate the forces acting upon the Gecko as it scales a range of surfaces. Organic chemistry and nanotechnology were employed to determine the chemical make-up of the elastomer and carbon based fibres.
I find Geckskin innovative as it is versatile and is used to hold a range of objects, varying in mass and texture to smooth surfaces. One demonstration of this is where a 10cm by 10cm piece of Geckskin held a massive 136 kilograms to a glass panel! For such a small piece of tape, this is a massive achievement!
On the whole, Geckskin adhesive tape is one of the most innovative inventions of the twenty-first century. The Gecko is a phenomenal creature, which enabled many scientific disciplines to be combined. Geckskin is by far the revolutionary invention of the adhesive industry.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. (2016). Geckskin. Retrieved from https://geckskin.umass.edu/
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. (2015). Gecko-like Adhesives Now Useful for Real World Surfaces. Retrieved from https://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/gecko-adhesives-now-useful-real-world
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. (2016). Inspired by Gecko Feet, Scientists Invent Super-Adhesive Material. Retrieved from https://www.cns.umass.edu/about/newsletter/may-2012/inspired-by-gecko-feet-scientists-invent-super-adhesive-material
The article above is one of the winning entries of GTAC's Biomimicry Blog competition. The competition challenged Victorian students to submit a blog article detailing an example of scientific and mathematical advances that were inspired by nature. Click here for more information.