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Spider Man Gloves are Real, and They're Spectacular



Researchers at Stanford have developed gloves inspired by the climbing movement of geckos that give users under 200 pounds the ability to climb a smooth, vertical surface. Their research is published in this week's issue of the Journal of the Royal Society Interface

Popular Mechanics' William Herkewitz discussed the project, 

"Hawkes and his colleagues developed a dry-adhesive called PDMS microwedges. Unlike duct tape or super glue, this reptile-inspired adhesive works via clingy hair-like nanofibers. These nanofibers flatten out when pulled downward against a surface and grip via electromagnetic attraction (called the van der Waals force) but can be pulled off easily with a perpendicular tug.

Using springs, they anchored 24 microwedge patches to a flat plate that a person could grab with their hand, the idea being that the 24 patches distribute the force of a climber. However, this is actually a well-tested recipe for failure. Normal springs won't distribute weight as evenly as you'd need. Worse, when a single patch is pulled past its breaking point, the failure can avalanche across the entire plate.

Here's the key to Hawkes' system: Instead of using ordinary springs to anchor the adhesive patches, they used springs made of a shape-memory alloy. While normal springs become tenser as you pull them like a rubber band, the scientist's shape-memory alloy springs actually become softer and less tense, like stretching bubblegum.

Anchored by these weird springs, each of Hawkes' microwedges distributed the weight of a clinging climber across the plate with near perfection. Hawkes could easily scale a glass wall, and the scientists have calculated that the gloves could be used by anyone up to around 200 lbs. And if one wedge ever fails, the plate simply self-corrects."

Read more in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Popular Mechanics and Science News.

Via i09 | Image: Elliot Hawkes


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