Gecko Tape Could Mean Spider-Man Climbing Suits

A new material relies on millions of tiny plastic fibers that can grip solids as the fabric slides across them, then quickly release those objects when pulled away vertically. The technology is based on the anatomy of a spider's gecko's foot, and may be used for things like hanging art on a wall, or wrapping a broken leg on a battlefield. Screw that stuff: I'd like to use it to build a Spider-Man climbing suit.

According to the scientists at UC Berkeley and Lewis and Clark College in Oregon, a 2-cm square of the stuff can hold nearly a pound. Off the bat, that may not be enough to hold me on a gusty day 32 stories up the side of the Empire State Building, but it's a good start. Put a whole suit of the material on a guy as limber as, say, Andy Serkis, and you never know.

Another cool attribute is that—like certain ex-girlfriends—the stuff gets clingier the longer you use it. As it was rubbed against a glass plate, it got stronger, because of the way the fibers bent into shape. I'm not even sure many geckos can get a solid grip on glass. Of course, I don't want Berkeley professor Ron Fearing to hear me talking smack about his beloved lizards. Here's how he rhapsodizes the inspiration for his invention:

"The gecko has a very sophisticated hierarchical structure of compliant toes, microfibers, nanofibers and nanoattachment plates that allows the foot to attach and release with very little effort. The gecko makes it look simple, but the animal needs to control the directions it is moving its toes—correct movement equates to little effort."
Bottom line: If I'm ever going to get my fully functional Spider-Man suit, I'm probably gonna have to see a man named Fearing about it. [Medgadget]