Soldiers and spies of the future could be given “Spider-Man” suits to climb up sheer surfaces and even stick to the ceiling, according to BAE Systems.
The British engineering firm has developed a material that closely mimics the feet of a gecko lizard. The gecko’s foot is covered with hairs so small that they merge with molecules of things that they touch. This incredibly strong bond can also be easily peeled off.
BAE Systems believes its “Synthetic Gecko” material is the closest yet to the natural version and would also be cheap to produce. A square metre is capable of holding an average family car off the ground.
The firm admitted it was “still a long way off achieving the performance of a gecko – for example sticking to dirty, wet or rough surfaces is a major issue, along with durability”. However, Dr Jeff Sargent, a research physicist at BAE Systems, said: “We have demonstrated we can do multiple attachments with this material – you can stick it down once and stick it down again. Having a Spider-Man glove is a long way down the road, but in principle, you might have something like that.”
In addition to the climbing suits, the firm said it would be possible to use the material to make climbing and crawler robots for inspecting and repairing planes and structures.
See also: bearded dragon lizard at London Zoo gets a new playmate yesterday in the form of a robotic reptile.
Related: Geckos’ self-cleaning feet inspire new adhesive, Gecko-like robot with sticky feet.