Finally, a man walks like a gecko in scientists’ lab
If you’ve ever longed to defy gravity by scurrying across a ceiling upside down or scaling a high-rise like a gecko (or Tom Cruise), science thanks you for sticking with it.
For more than a decade, a team of scientists has been trying to recreate the complex adhesion system that gives the lizards their unique climbing ability. This week, four Stanford University researchers led by engineer Mark Cutkosky announced that they’ve succeeded in creating a “gecko-inspired human climbing system,” according to MIT Technology Review.
The system was attached to a graduate student, who was then attached to a glass wall and instructed to move vertically “using two hand-sized sticky pads,” the MIT publication said.
The climber clearly lacked the mobility of a gecko, but there’s a reason for that, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Royal Society Interface.
“The climbing speed was limited by the posture of the climber, not by the adhesion system (which can attach and detach in less than a second), so further work optimizing the climbing device for human biomechanics is warranted,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers, according to the MIT report, believe that, once perfected, their adhesives could be used for “manufacturing equipment, making grippers for manipulating huge solar panels, displays, and other objects without the need for suction power or chemical glues.” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has even tapped the team to make an adhesive that could be used by robots.
“This is one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in years,” biomechanist Kellar Autumn, who was not involved with the study, told Science magazine. “This has been a real dream of mine.”