Engineering the Spider Suit

Scientists come a step closer to creating the perfect adhesive

Gecko Setae

Millions of tiny hairs cover the gecko's feet, allowing it to climb even slick glassLaurent Paul Montaron

Spiderman, meet Gecko Guy. Ronald Fearing and his group at the University of California, Berkeley have engineered an adhesive material so sticky that a person clothed in a suit made of the stuff might actually be able to climb walls like the web-slinging comic book hero. The work was inspired by the gecko, which takes advantage of van der Waals forces—the cumulation of millions of molecular-level attractions—to keep its hair-covered feet stuck to sheer surfaces.

We've reported on gecko-inspired work before, but Fearing's latest achievement is a big step towards getting more of these gecko-gadgets out of the lab and into the world.

One postage-stamp-sized square of the material contains about 84 million tiny plastic hairs, and can support a pound of weight. In the long run, the tape could be used for anything from a surgical dressing to gravity-replicating space slippers.