Scientists Prove Spider-Man Is Possible with Gecko Gloves

Thursday, 28 January 2016 - 11:44AM
Thursday, 28 January 2016 - 11:44AM
Recently, Cambridge scientists crushed all of our dreams when they claimed that it's impossible for Spider-Man to exist, or more specifically, that it's impossible for a human to scale a wall using only her hands and feet. Now, Stanford researchers are firing back with proof of "gecko gloves" that allow humans to climb glass walls, restoring the faith of children and comic book fans everywhere.

According to the Cambridge study, the surface area of the adhesive needed to bear a load and climb vertically increases proportionally as an animal gets bigger. As a result, the largest animal that can scale walls is a gecko. If a human were to climb walls using the same method as a gecko, the researchers contended, she would either need to cover most of her body with adhesive or have size 100 feet.

Opening quote
"We had an issue with that," Stanford scientist Elliot Hawkes says in the above video, "because if you don't just copy the gecko, but instead you're clever about how you distribute your weight, then... a human can climb a glass wall."
Closing quote

The adhesive technology developed by Hawkes in 2014, which comes in pads approximately the size of a human hand, actually does use gecko-inspired technology, but in a slightly different way. The pads are composed of 24 adhesive tiles, each covered with thousands of sawtooth-shaped polymers that are only 100 micrometers long. The pads are connected to degressive springs, which get less stiff as they are stretched. When the pad touches the surface, it isn't sticky unless a load is applied. When the weight is applied, the springs are pulled, which applies an equal force on each of the tiles and causes the polymers to flatten, creating the adhesion force. And like a real gecko foot, once the load tension is released, the pad can be easily removed from the wall. 


As shown in the video, the device can currently carry 200 pounds up a glass wall, but according to Hawkes, the same device scaled up to be ten times bigger could theoretically hold 2,000 pounds, or approximately ten Spider-Men. So there.
Science of Sci-Fi

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