Looking to Emulate Spiderman? Try Out the DARPA Z MAN  Project

June 10, 2014, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

In awe of Spiderman? There is of course a reason as to why you hold the Spiderman in high esteem.

We all have seen how Spiderman walks up walls easily. May it be glass, may it be brick and it’s true that we all have wondered how it is possible.

It is also true that we had come to a conclusion that it’s not possible for a normal human being. Well, our dreams of being Spiderman have leapt one step closer to reality.

Thanks to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) who looked upon a gecko with much admiration, we guess. we have told you a few other initiatives from DARPA some time, if you would remember. If you dont, you may head here, here and here.


We are talking about a project by DARPA called the Z MAN. This is an effort to create a climbing apparatus that will allow humans to scale smooth walls.

Here, the hero isn’t a spider but a gecko instead. A large rectangular platform which acts like paddles is engineered on the basis of a gecko’s foot.

ZMANA gecko’s foot is covered with scores of tiny ridge structures called setae that are only 100-micrometers-long. Hundreds of small projections called spatulae that are about 200 nanometers in diameter sprout from each of these setae.

Just like hair, gecko’s foot sport these structures that increase the surface area of its foot by many times. A gecko can use this system to dangle its 200g mass from a single toe.

Working out the same mechanism on a human is a challenge of its own. A nanoscale fabrication technique was used in the pads to replicate the physical structure of spatulae.

The surface area is even larger in humans, compared to the gecko’s feet. The paddles have to be moved one at a time and carefully reset after each movement. Still, climbers have easily scaled 25 foot glass walls with the Z-Man system.


DARPA has been testing the Z-Man technology for the last couple of years and hopes to see it utilized by soldiers in urban combat scenarios.

Well who knows, we could see some Spiderman in action in the future. Or may be, your kids will soon emulate Spiderman without much delay.

Are you looking forward to seeing that happen? Tell us in the comments space below.

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