Thursday, February 20, 2014


For many years, gecko feet have been a subject of interest. Their ability to scale walls and run across ceilings with seemingly no extra effort infers a sticky pad on their foot, but indeed the pad is not sticky. Researchers have shown that geckos can support up to 9 pounds with their four feet, a large task for a small animal. When they release their foot from the surface they are climbing on, a gecko rolls its' foot off rather than just picking it straight up, a factor that only peaked the interest and questions: How do geckos do this? Harnessing the ability to mimic this phenomenon could be a great innovation for many purposes. This mimicking of a natural phenomenon is sometimes referred to as biomimicry, or bioinspiration.

 Studying the anatomy of gecko feet led to a new invention through bioinspiration: Geckskin. A biology professor here at UMass, Duncan Irschick discovered some of the properties of gecko feet that allow them to support their weight on any incline. He realized that the pads on their feet maximize contact with the substrate they are standing on, acting like a draped table cloth over a table. By coming into contact with every small ridge on a surface, and using materials like bathroom caulking, nylon, and fiber (more specifically, polydimethylsiloxane), Irschick and his team made a pad that mimicked the gecko adhesive pad. The pad and a synthetic tendon were formed, maximizing both stiffness and rotational freedom.

A pad that is one square foot holds up to 700 pounds. This pad, like the foot of a gecko, adheres to almost any smooth surface, and is easily removable by simply peeling , reused, leaving behind no sticky residue from tape or glue. The product has many practical purposes such as hanging pictures or televisions, but it is not allowed on the market right now for unannounced reasons. Partially funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, maybe our soldiers are learning how to climb like Spiderman...?

An incredible invention based on biology, a multi-purpose product, and some UMass pride.

Posted by Steven Yu (3-C)


  1. That's really cool Steven. I had no idea there was a professor here at Umass doing this kind of research. Are there any other types of mimicking behavior you can share with us?

    Lindsey Janof

    1. There are many more examples, try searching it under biomimicry, or follow this link:

  2. The gecko's feet actually can interact with materials on a molecular level! Their extreme surface area lets them do this. A gecko can cling to anything because it is not gripping it per se; it is in fact bonded to it by the Van der Waals force.


    1. Your absolutely right, van Der Waals forces are responsible for that rigidity that is achieved through the draping effect. People used to think that gecko foot adhesion occurred through the setae, or tiny hair-like structures on their feet, but the van Der Waals forces and surface area is far more responsible.

  3. Who would have thought that something like geckskin was possible? The phenomenon is so surprising every time one watches a gecko move. Not only is this inspiring, but also will certainly pave the way for many new advances in many areas as this adhesive technology is applied.

    Posted by Michael Dailing

  4. I like the idea of mimicking natural phenomena to create new biotechnology. I think there are many other phenomena which we can study and take advantages of them.

    Posted by Yim Hui

  5. It's amazing that this is almost commercially available! It seems ideal for all sorts of purposes - anything from a non-destructive way to hang something to non-slip surfaces. It would be neat to cover a wall with this fabric - a whole different kind of indoor climbing gym.

    Posted by: Kirk MacKinnon