Not Your Average Wall-Climber

Engineers find that ivy uses nanoparticles to climb walls

It’s about time someone recognized ivy’s ability to stick to walls, especially with geckos getting all the headlines lately. You had to figure that at some point a few scientists were going to sit down and start figuring out how to transfer ivy’s sticky technique to man-made materials. Now researchers from the University of Tennessee and Agilent Labs have determined that ivy actually secretes tiny nanoparticles to bind to surfaces.

The scientists found that ivy most likely sticks to surfaces through hydrogen bonding. Also, the material secreted is initially in a gel-like state–then it dries and hardens, and that section of the ivy becomes firmly attached.

Now the idea is to study the secretion mechanism in more detail, and explore potential engineering applications. Medgadget suggests that sutures and surgical adhesives are two possibilities. The research is described in a paper published in Nano Letters.