A team of researchers from the Zoological Institute at the University of Kiel, Germany, have produced a tape that bonds to a target surface using the same principal that allows geckos and insects to walk on ceilings.
The researchers, led by Stanislav Gorb, managed to mimic the setae, tiny hairs with flattened tips that cover the feet and legs of geckos and climbing insects. On contact, the tips of the setae splay out, maximizing their surface area and providing the traction and adhesion necessary to move up walls or across ceilings. The principal in play is the Van der Waals interaction, which involves the atoms, molecules and surfaces rather than the chemical bonds of traditional adhesives — and boasts a number of advantages in this kind of use.
The tape, which is created from silicon, is approximately twice as hard to remove as conventional adhesive tape and leaves no sticky residue. The picture here shows a researcher hanging from the ceiling on a 20cm x 20cm square of the product. It can also be attached, removed and reattached thousands of times — and can even be applied underwater.