Gecko robot tank climbs walls and goes around ledges

November 1, 2011, By Daniel Rapcencu

This is a really cool hybrid of a gadget.  Combine a tank with a gecko and throw in a backbone that bends every which way and a lot of practical applications come to mind.

Imagine a robot that can crawl up walls and across ceilings catching the spiders and removing cobwebs from the corners.

On the more serious side, search and rescue teams could use these with cameras to find survivors.  One could be used in the future to look at those cracks in the Washington Monument that developed after the earthquake this past summer on the east coast.  Then again, it could also do a Jackie Chan stunt by climbing a drainpipe.

This gadget uses two pairs of tank-track belts that use van der Waals force principals to stick to smooth surfaces without suction cups or sticky glue or fluids.  The method copies the toe hairs of the gecko.

Very small caps around one-sixth the diameter of a human hair are made up of fibers that are used to grab a purchase on a smooth surface.  The fibers use the attraction principals between molecules to “stick” to the surfaces.

The robot developed at the Simon Fraser University at Burnaby, located in British Columbia, Canada was written up in the Smart Materials and Structure, a British research journal.

Jeff Krahn of the university explained how it works “The adhesive pads on geckos follow this same principle by utilising a large number of fibres, each with a very small tip. The more fibres a gecko has in contact, the greater attachment force it has on a surface.”

This robot weighs 8.5 ounces and can support close to an additional 3.5 ounces.  It also has an umbilical cord that supplies power and computer control.

It is going to take some more research to develop a model that can support more weight to make the device autonomous.  Don’t expect to see it in toy shops or Sharper Image anytime soon, but you can see a video of it below.

In the mean time, just look for a gecko to catch those spiders.

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