Scientists in Britain and USA are taking inspiration from the gecko to try and develop the ultimate in adhesive tape. The gecko has evolved with toe surfaces covered in the perfect adhesive that allows them to stick in the most difficult of circumstances - even upside down on wet glass.
Geckos have micro and nano-scale hairs on their toes. Each main hair is a thousand times thinner than a human hair. On the end of each hair are more hairs - each a thousand times smaller again. Molecular attraction then occurs by way of Van der Waals forces that allow the gecko to cling on. Synthetic versions of these hairs have now been developed.
Applications include incorporating the new adhesive material into lightweight rescue robots that can readily climb walls in search and rescue missions. NASA has plans to use the material on space flights as early as next year. The theory is that by being able to have astronauts stick to the exterior of a space station or the space shuttle, then spacewalks would become far less dangerous.