The Kid Should See This

The Lizard That Uses Nanotechnology to Walk Upside Down

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Geckos are famous for their incredible grip. They can stick to almost anything, hanging upside down from completely smooth surfaces and climbing walls with ease. But what’s the secret behind a gecko’s gravity-defying grip?

In this It’s Okay to Be Smart video, Dr. Joe Hanson and a gecko named Vanilla Bean team up to investigate gecko feet up close… really up close. Electron microscope close. Hanson explains:

…a gecko toe pad is covered in about half a million tiny hairs called setae. Zoom in even closer and each of those hairs is covered with hundreds of tiny little bristles that kind of look like spatulas. Those tiny little bristles, they let a gecko’s toes make contact with the surface it’s climbing on on the nanoscale. We’re talking billionths of a meter. And when you think about climbing you think about things like, I don’t know, friction and gravity.

the science behind the grip

But on the nanoscale different forces take over than what we’re used to and this is where it gets awesome a gecko can climb because the molecules in their feet are directly interacting with the molecules of what they’re climbing on. That leads to a special kind of attractive force called Van der Waals force.

gecko feet
Read more at Scientific American: How do gecko lizards unstick themselves as they move across a surface?

Then watch more It’s Okay to Be Smart videos on TKSST or on YouTube.

Related exploration: Biomimicry, including Stanford’s MicroTug robot can pull 2,000x its weight on glass, and The Leaf-tailed Geckos (Uroplatus) of Madagascar.

Bonus: The Sticky Feet of Ants & Cockroaches.

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