Science News

Spiderman Suit Inches Closer

Sun, 2nd Sep 2007

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The dream of being Spiderman- or Spiderpig if you're a fan of the Simpsons - could be a step closer after the latest research by a group of Italian physicists.

Over the past couple of years scientists have started to understand how creatures like geckos and spiders can run effortlessly up walls. Their feet are covered with tiny hairs, and they stick to surfaces using the combined power of the weak atomic attraction between the atoms in their feet, and the atoms in the surface they're on, known as van der Waals forces.

Some researchers have tried to make adhesives based on this technology, such as Geckel - which was in the news recently. But researchers have been sceptical that these could ever support the weight of a human.

Professor Nicola Pugno, engineer and physicist at Polytechnic of Turin, Italy, has done some sums to show that a combination of carbon nanotube-based "Velcro", along with the van der Waals forces might be enough to support human, and make our Spiderman dreams come true.

This could potentially be used in many ways, from space exploration to sticky boots and gloves for window cleaners on skyscrapers. The technology could even be used underwater.

But before you get carried away with your Spidey-dreams, I have to tell you that the work isn't even at the prototype stage yet. And it may be that our human muscles simply aren't up to the task - unlike a gecko, we would suffer from terrible muscle fatigue if we tried to cling to a wall for hours.


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