ANDRE GEIM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ANDRE GEIM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Synthetic gecko hairs. Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of synthetic gecko hairs (as seen from above). In 2000, a team in California discovered that geckos are equipped with billions of tiny hair-like structures (spatulae) on each toe. Intermolecular forces (van der Waals) are produced by the hairs, allowing geckos to hold onto surfaces. In 2003, Professor Geim's team at Manchester University produced a 'sticky' tape, which mimicks the action of spatulae. Plastic pillars, only two thousandths of a millimetre tall, are attached to a flexible base so that the 'hairs' come into contact with the smallest undulations.
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