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'Sticky Feet' Glue? Hair-like Structure on Spider Feet Can Help Scientists Make Super Adhesive

Image for representation, Credits: Reuters

Image for representation, Credits: Reuters

When the scientists started the experiments, they expected that the special adhesion of the spiders was because of an angle at which spider feet hair sticks to the surfaces.

Have you ever wished to be bitten by a radioactive spider? So that you could also have the powers of Spiderman, or to be specific, the powers of spiders. Now, scientists are studying the superpowers of spiders - their ability to stick and walk on almost all surfaces, even upside down. The research is fuelled by scientists’ desire to learn and produce reversible bioadhesives, which can stick and unstick on will, just like Spiderman.

In the latest research, Scientists at the Kiel University in Germany were surprised to find that the hair-like structures on spider feet, which give spiders their superpowers, were far more variable than they expected. So much so, that scientists could only study a bunch of them and gave up on studying all the hair-like structures and their functions. Now, they are expecting these structures to repeat in patterns.

When the scientists started the experiments, they expected that the special adhesion of the spiders was because of an angle at which spider feet hair sticks to the surfaces. They thought that all spider feet hairs work in the same manner.

“But surprisingly, the adhesion forces largely differed between the individual hairs, e.g. one hair adhered best at a low angle with the substrate while the other one performed best close to perpendicular," says Clemens Schaber, the lead researcher of the study, in a news release by Frontiers, an open-access publisher-platform. The research was published in the platform’s Frontiers in Mechanical Engineering Journal on June 18.

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Looking through a microscope, scientists found that each structure was working differently. These hairs differed from each other even in their structural arrangement. According to scientists, this must be the reason why spiders can easily climb on so many different kinds of surfaces - from as smooth as glass to as rough as a rock.

Scientists think that despite it being very difficult to build these structures in the lab and achieve as much reliability and stability as spiders have, the research can still provide a direction in finding reversible adhesives that do not leave a residue.

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first published:June 20, 2021, 10:02 IST