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Sacked for obesity, pilot sues IAF

16:59 PM August 23, 2006

Washington: Researchers at the University of California (UC) at Berkeley have created an array of synthetic micro-fibre that uses very high friction to support loads on smooth surfaces. The creation was inspired by the hair that makes it possible for geckos to hang single-toed from sheer walls and scamper along ceilings. The researchers found that a synthetic array of polypropylene fibre could hold a quarter to a glass slide inclined at an 80-degree angle, yet is not 'sticky' like adhesive tape. The fibre, packed 42 million per square centimeter, each measure 20 microns long and 0.6 microns in diameter - or about 100 times thinner than a human hair. One micron is one-thousandth of a millimetre. "We think the result represents an important milestone in our ongoing research project to understand gecko adhesion," said UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and principal investigator of the project, Ronald Fearing. The microfiber array developed at UC Berkeley doesn't exhibit adhesion. Adhesion describes the resistance of an object to being pulled off a surface, while friction describes the resistance to being dragged or slid along a surface. Thus, a suit of the material would not let you do Spiderman stunts, but as a high-friction surface, microfibre arrays could be incorporated into athletic shoes and tires. The researchers attribute the low adhesion to the fibres' tendency to straighten out and stiffen up – thus breaking contact – when they are pulled away from the surface.

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