Technology & Science

Scientists design new superadhesive called 'geckel'

What do you get when you merge the dry sticking ability of a gecko lizard with the underwater adhesive properties of a mussel? According to this week's issue of the journal Nature, the answer is geckel.

What do you get when you merge the dry sticking ability of a gecko lizard with the underwater adhesive properties of a mussel? According to this week's issue of the journal Nature, the answer is "geckel."

Geckos, with their renowned ability to stick to vertical surfaces, helped inspire scientists to create a new superadhesive. ((Mike Yoder/Lawrence Journal-World/Associated Press))
Scientists at Northwestern University have combined two of nature's sticky strategies to create a synthetic material that could one day lead to "the design of wet temporary adhesives for medical, industrial, consumer and military settings," say the article's authors, Lee Haeshin, Bruce P. Lee and Phillip B. Messersmith.

Known for their amazing climbing ability, geckos have pads on their feet that are densely packed with fine hairs, giving them a wider surface area on their feet and better sticking ability. Flies, bees and insects have a similar skill.

But underwater, the gecko's adhesive power is diminished, which led the scientists to think about mussels, and theirability tostick to rocks while getting bashed by big waves.

Researchers have previously attempted to copy the gecko's foot sticking power. But "geckel" is so far the most successful. Like a gecko's incredibleability to rapidly attach and detach, the new adhesive has been proven to stick and restick through 1,000 contact/release cycles— like a gecko lizard.

"Geckel" could potentially be used to replace sutures and to make other medical supplies such as bandages and adhesive tape, which would remain firmly attached to the skin while wet, but could also be easily removed after the wound has healed.

Despite the promising results so far, the scientists said that they must still tackle many practical problems before scaling up their research, and that fabrication costs will have to be greatly reduced before "geckel" is commercially viable.