Climbing walls about to become easier

Phew! As someone who often feels like climbing walls (e.g. when listening to Tony Blair or George Bush), I am relieved to learn of this new development

Researchers have developed a carbon-nanotube-based tape that could prove useful for creating robots that climb walls and special adhesive gloves for astronauts. Unlike ordinary tape, which eventually loses its stickiness, this new material sticks like a permanent glue, but it can be removed and reused. It can also stick to a wider variety of materials, including glass and Teflon.

Dubbed “gecko tape” by researchers, the material works by imitating the nano- and microscale structures on geckos’ feet that allow them to quickly scale walls and run across ceilings. The tape is reusable and will not dry up or slide off the wall because, unlike ordinary tape, it does not use viscoelastic glues. Instead, it employs carbon nanotubes to make use of microscale van der Waals forces that occur at very short ranges between surfaces. Bundles of nanotubes conform to the slightest microscopic variations on a surface, the same way that the bundles of nanoscopic keratin fibers that make up the hairs on gecko feet allow them to conform to walls.

Like ordinary tape, gecko tape clings strongly when pulled parallel to a surface; it can support just under 10 pounds per square centimeter. But the tape can be peeled off relatively easily when pulled perpendicular to a surface.