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Technology

Gecko + Mussel = Geckel, One Fine Adhesive

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In the rain, the Geico gecko loses some adhesiveness. Scientists have been trying to replicate the stickiness of a gecko's foot for years, with varying success. Now researchers at Northwestern led by Phillip Messersmith have taken this to a whole 'nother level by creating "geckel," an adhesive that weds a gecko's reversible stickiness with the mussel's ability to remain effective when wet—an Achilles pseudopod for most adhesives. The researchers say geckel's unique combination will make it a good water-resistant bandage or a suture that can work on wounds that refuse to stop bleeding. The idea behind geckel is actually pretty straightforward: the researchers nanofabricated an array of tiny silicone fibers (geckos cling to walls using van der Waals forces in hair-like setae on their toes), and then smothered it with 3,4-L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA), one of the proteins that gives mussels their binding power. They say geckel can be used through 1,000 "contact/release cycles"—Messersmith says other gecko biomimetics only work for two cycles—and performs equally well in dry or wet environments. DiscoBlog will happily dedicate a blog post to any reader who covers a unitard with geckel and climbs the exterior of a tall building. Photographic evidence required.

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