Geckos have an amazing ability to stick to and climb just about any type of surface, so if you want to make better adhesives, it makes sense to figure out what they do that makes them so sticky. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have been trying to reverse engineer gecko feet for a few years, but now they have come up with an entirely new way to leverage the way geckos can stick to even the smoothest surfaces.
This material called Geckskin uses soft elastomers combined with ultra-stiff fabrics such as glass fiber and carbon fiber to mimic the gecko's draping adhesion capabilities. The lizard uses a combination of tendon, skin, and bone to create a soft surface layer that also has high underlying stiffness, to make a strong adhesive connection without requiring wetness or sticky residue, thanks to van der Waals' forces that attract molecules to each other. Professor Al Crosby and his team say that Geckskin achieves the same strength found in nature, but it can be scaled up to hold far more weight per square inch.
In the video below you can watch as a couple of Professor Crosby's students use a strip of Geckskin to attach a flat screen monitor to various different types of hard surface that they found around the lab such as painted walls, glass, wood, steel, concrete, and marble. What impresses me is not so much that the stuff sticks well, but more that it doesn't seems to lose its strength with repeated sticking and unsticking. That's certainly not the case with a more common adhesive such as duct tape. Personally, I was waiting for them to try it on something really challenging like brick or tree bark, but it appears that so far Geckskin really works best when the surface is reasonably smooth.