Finally, a man walks like a gecko in scientists’ lab |

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.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.