Role of contact electrification and electrostatic interactions in gecko adhesion

Hadi Izadi, Katherine M. E. Stewart, Alexander Penlidis

Abstract

Geckos, which are capable of walking on walls and hanging from ceilings with the help of micro-/nano-scale hierarchical fibrils (setae) on their toe pads, have become the main prototype in the design and fabrication of fibrillar dry adhesives. As the unique fibrillar feature of the toe pads of geckos allows them to develop an intimate contact with the substrate the animal is walking on or clinging to, it is expected that the toe setae exchange significant numbers of electric charges with the contacted substrate via the contact electrification (CE) phenomenon. Even so, the possibility of the occurrence of CE and the contribution of the resulting electrostatic interactions to the dry adhesion of geckos have been overlooked for several decades. In this study, by measuring the magnitude of the electric charges, together with the adhesion forces, that gecko foot pads develop in contact with different materials, we have clarified for the first time that CE does contribute effectively to gecko adhesion. More importantly, we have demonstrated that it is the CE-driven electrostatic interactions which dictate the strength of gecko adhesion, and not the van der Waals or capillary forces which are conventionally considered as the main source of gecko adhesion.

  • Received April 8, 2014.
  • Accepted June 19, 2014.
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