NASA turns to geckos for ‘ultimate stickiness’ climbing space robots

Nasa has revealed how it is harnessing the power of geckos in space to develop its next generation of exploratory robots

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.wired.co.uk

Professionally speaking I’ve used Van derWall forces to solve a sticky problem that I had in a technical design a number of years ago.  Here is how NASA is using the scientific effect.  “NASA has revealed how it is harnessing the power of geckos in space to develop its next generation of exploratory robots. The space agency said it was working on a long-term replacement for duct tape, using the “ultimate system of stickiness” inspired by the hardy lizards to develop its next generation of exploratory space robots.  Geckos use thousands of very small hairs on their feet to hang upside down and on walls, utilising a principle known as “van der Waals forces” to manipulate electrical fields. The system uses the uneven spacing of electrons orbiting a nuclei of atoms to form positive and negative sides of the same molecule. These two sides attract each other, and result in a sticky effect that persists in different temperatures, pressures and under intense radiation, and can be reused endlessly. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Aaron Parness studied the way geckos use this physical property in depth, and reverse-engineered it to make a material that also uses tiny hairs to grip with more than 150 Newtons of force.   –  In a zero gravity test the prototype technology was able to stick to and manipulate a 10 kilogram cube and a 100 kilogram person. More than 30,000 stick-and-unstick repetitions have shown no loss of effectiveness, and the hope is the new material could soon be used on the International Space Station.

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