A palm-sized device inspired by a tiny purple beetle that feeds on palm leaves could one day enable humans to walk up walls in manner similar to comic book hero Spiderman. “Engineers at Cornell University, in New York, invented the device that uses the adhesive power of water to create a reversible adhesive bond capable of sticking to glass, wood and even brick. The researchers, whose work was funded by the US military, hope to use their invention to develop gloves and shoes that will allow the wearer to climb up even the blankest of walls. The technology was inspired by the Palmetto tortoise beetle from Florida, which uses surface tension from tiny droplets of oil secreted by glands at the top of its legs to clamp its shell down onto a leaf when it is under attack from ants. Once attached, the beetle is capable of holding loads 100 times its own weight. Professor Paul Steen, a biomolecular engineer at Cornell University, found that by pumping tiny droplets of water through microscopic holes in a flat plate, he could exploit the surface tension of the water to ‘glue’ the plate to another surface. Using an electrical field to pump the water through the holes, he was also able to reverse the process, allowing the plate to become unstuck on demand simply by changing the electric field.”
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