Sunday, November 02, 2008

How much weight can YOU support, hanging from just one toe on smooth glass?

The toes of the gecko have attracted a lot of attention, as they adhere to a wide variety of surfaces, without the use of liquids or surface tension.

Recent studies of the spatula tipped setae on gecko footpads demonstrate that the attractive forces that hold geckos to surfaces are van der Waals interactions between the finely divided setae and the surfaces themselves. Every square millimeter of a gecko's footpad contains about 14,000 hair-like setae. Each seta is in turn tipped with between 100 and 1,000 spatulae.

These van der Waals interactions involve no fluids; in theory, a boot made of synthetic setae would adhere as easily to the surface of the International Space Station as it would to a living room wall, although adhesion varies with humidity and is dramatically reduced under water, suggesting a contribution from capillarity. The setae on the feet of geckos are also self cleaning and will usually remove any clogging dirt within a few steps. Teflon, which is specifically engineered to resist van der Waals forces, is the only known surface to which a gecko cannot stick.

Geckos' toes operate well below their full attractive capabilities for most of the time. If a typical mature 70 g (2.5 oz) gecko had every one of its setae in contact with a surface, it would be capable of holding aloft a weight of 133 kg (290 lb). This means a gecko can support about eight times its weight hanging from just one toe on smooth glass.

And they chirp. What's not to love?

Geckos. They're what's for dinner my new favorite thing.

(Pillaged shamelessly from the Wiki, cause there's cool stuff in there, and dedicated to the extremely cute little gecko [not the one in the photo, which is from another time and place] that hangs out in the kitchen window.)


DCup November 02, 2008 4:54 PM  

Well the last time I hung from one toe, it was from a concrete wall. Smooth glass?

Brave Sir Robin November 03, 2008 7:49 AM  

Aghhhhhh . . head spinning . . . too early for science . . . must have more coffee (black, thank you).

Geckos are cool. Oh yeah, and they make funny commercials too.

quakerdave November 03, 2008 4:16 PM  

Geckos are soooo kewl.

And the British accents make them even cooler...

The Cunning Runt November 03, 2008 10:03 PM  

As a [former] climber, I resent this more than you will ever know.

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