Did you hear the one about the gecko and the mussel? Well, they stuck together! A gecko's feet are like sticky notes, they adhere temporarily to most surfaces but can be pulled off again very quickly and then stuck again. Trouble is they don't work very well under water. Mussels, on the other foot, have evolved a biological adhesive that works incredibly well in water. Now, researchers at Northwestern University have made a biochemomechanical mashup of gecko and mussel stickiness to produce a temporary adhesive material that works even in water. Phillip Messersmith and graduate student Haeshin Lee reported the discovery of the new material, "geckel" in the journal Nature. The researchers imitated the gecko's foot by nanofabricating an array of silicone pillars and then coated them with a thin layer of synthetic polymer based on 3,4-L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) to mimic the mussel adhesive protein. The invention could eventually have applications in medical, industrial, consumer and military settings, Messersmith says.
Gecko and mussel mash