Geckos Grabing Gizmos in the OR

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Living gecko foot photo I took while working on med uses for their sticky pads! Click to see larger

CNN reported today about the invention of synthetic-gecko.  DITM- is this just a rubber lizard or an imitation car insurance company?  No!  You may not be aware, the gecko has a bit of nanotechnology in its tiny little feet.

Geckos are so strange as animals you would think they must come from Australia where all the freaky animals are.  For starters, they have no eyelids and lick their eyes clean.  Some species are even parthenogenic, the females capable of reproducing without copulating with a male.

Why make a synthetic gecko?:  The toes of the gecko are little amazing creations that I have been researching.  (this is one of my wonderful invention ideas that someone completed before I got really going with it).  You see, their little feet can stick to just about anything – even glass. 

How do their foot stickers work?:  Each gecko foot has millions of microscopic hairs (called setae) each with a microscopic mushroom shaped cap on the end, less than one-thousandth of a millimeter across called a spatula . This ensures that the gecko’s foot is in very close contact with the surface beneath. The cumulative attractive force, called van der Waals force between hair, mushroom, and surface sticks the little guy down.  There are almost 500,000 Setae on each foot, and each of these tipped with between 100 and 1,000 spatulae.  If a gecko stuck every single little sticker to a surface at one time it could hold up a 250 lb man.

A at BAE Systems Advanced Technology Center in the UK has finally made a synthetic gecko sticker pad. 

Their “Synthetic Gecko” material mimics the microscopic hairs on a gecko’s foot. Its potential as a reusable super-strong adhesive material could be applied across a number of areas.  “As well as the engineering potential of our product we realize there is a huge scope for its commercial and even medical application,” Dr. Jeffery Sargent said.

It’s not the first time that material has been produced that has tried to copy geckos’ climbing feats. Scientists at the University of California discovered the secrets of the lizard’s seemingly gravity-defying ability in 2000 which they syntesized in tiny amounts in 2002.

How it can be used:  The first use are superstrong patches.  It would be like a velcro patch that could stick to anything with the strength of cement but by pulling ayt an angle could peel off!  It would be strong enough to patch a vehicle fusilage (or a heating heart, or the spinal dura, or a vessel, or …..)

“Materials that can change their properties electrically are being developed, that will be used to in the medical world to create things such as synthetic muscles,” Ian Pearson, resident futurist for BT, told CNN. “Creating smart membranes that could regulate the flow of drugs to a patient is another application,” said Pearson. “Synthetic Gecko” could have medical applications as well, for use in skin graft operations, for example.

Not to mention the scores of devices I am thinking of…

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