Inspired by the incredible sticking power in ant feet and gecko toes, researchers at Stanford’s Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Lab have developed directional adhesives that help this 12-gram µTug (MicroTug) robot move objects that are 2000 times its weight while it makes its way across glass:
This capability is comparable to a human dragging a blue whale. Even if the human was strong enough, their shoes would just slip making this impossible without this micro robot’s special gecko inspired “shoes.”
The “shoes” are the MicroTug’s sticky belly that will. not. let. it. slip. Pressure bends the directional adhesive’s tiny rubber spikes, increasing surface area and thus strengthening adhesion. Lift the adhesive and it easily detaches. Change the direction of the force and the spikes have no traction at all.
You can see an excellent example of this in the video below (at 2m09s), when an adhesive tile sticks so brilliantly as it’s pulled from one direction, but can’t get a grip as it’s pulled the other way. Also enjoy BDML’s 9-gram MicroTug vertical climber demonstrating the equivalent of “a human climbing up a glass building while carrying an adult elephant” or about 100 times its weight:
If you like these, watch this next: The Sticky Feet of Ants & Cockroaches.