Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Novel 'gecko-bot' takes a step to cosmos

06 January 2014, 09:46

Paris - A wall-crawling robot inspired by the gecko has taken a small but important step towards a future in space, scientists said on Thursday.

The tiny legged prototype could be the forerunner of automatons which crawl along the hulls of spacecraft, cleaning and maintaining them, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

Its footpads are covered with dry microfibres modelled on the toe hair of the gecko, which is celebrated for its ability to scuttle up windows and along walls yet not leave a trace.

The lizard does the trick through millions of ultra-fine hairs called setae, which interact with the climbing surface to create a molecular attraction known as the van der Waals force.

Researchers at Canada's Simon Fraser University first built a 240g tank-like gecko-bot, using tracks with microfibre treads.

They then developed this into a six-legged climbing robot, nicknamed Abigaille.

"This approach is an example of biomimicry, taking engineering solutions from the natural world," said team leader Mike Henrey.

‘Borrowed techniques’

The "dry adhesive" that helps Abigaille climb walls has now been put through its paces at a materials-testing lab at ESA's European Space and Technology Centre (Estec) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

Replicating the vacuum and temperatures of space, but not the zero gravity, the tests found that the adhesive worked like a charm, the agency said.

"A depth-sensing indentation instrument was used inside a vacuum chamber to precisely assess the dry adhesive's sticking performance," ESA specialist Laurent Pambaguian said in a press release.

"Experimental success means deployment in space might one day be possible."

Abigaille's six legs each have four degrees of freedom, which enables the "gecko-bot" to shift from horizontal to vertical environments.

Dry adhesives in space are compelling because other options have to be ruled out for safety reasons.

Sticky tape is a no-no because it collects dust, becomes less sticky over time and in a vacuum gives off fumes.

Magnets, too, are out as they cannot stick to composite surfaces and their magnetic field could affect instruments.

And Velcro is also excluded, as it needs a mating surface of hooks - and these can break off and become a hazard.

Gecko setae are microscopic: their ends are just 100-200 nanometres, or 100-200 billionths of a metre, across. By comparison, the human hair is gigantic, being around 100 000 nanometres in diameter.

"We've borrowed techniques from the micro-electronics industry to make our footpad terminators," said Henrey.

"Technical limitations mean these are around 100 times larger than a gecko's hairs, but they are sufficient to support our robot's weight."



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...