The true story of Gecko Feet

Your day-to-day life will soon be affected by the bottom of a gecko foot. When you hear atomic physics one of the last images in your mind would be a reptile.

But geckos have one of the most amazing adaptations in the animal kingdom. The bottom of their feet isn’t sticky, but covered in tiny hairs like a rug. Each hair has up to 1,000 split ends. A single gecko has around 2 billion split-end tips.

When these creatures walk on a leaf the atoms in the tip of each hair come close to the atoms in the leaf. When an atom in one object comes close to an atom in another, there’s a tiny attractive force like unimaginably small magnets. This is happening now between your body and everything you touch. Humans don’t notice because there aren’t enough atoms in our rough skin close to other surfaces.
A gecko’s 2 billion hairs achieve such a high level of contact, there is enough attraction between foot atoms and leaf atoms to support the gecko’s weight, even with a single toe. They lift their feet by literally peeling the atoms in their toes away from atoms in other objects.

This atomic adaptation allows these creatures to run up the smoothest surfaces known to man without slipping. Geckos don’t hold onto objects by friction, but by the total attractive force of atoms in close proximity.

Scientists can now mimic the fibers on the bottom of a gecko foot artificially. Manipulating the number of hairs increases or decreases the amount of atoms in close proximity and strength of the material. A single piece of the strongest man-made gecko foot attracts atoms so strongly; a post-it-note sized piece can hold a weight of 660 pounds.

This means soon you will soon say goodbye to Velcro or nailing a TV to the wall. These materials will replace many of the adhesives in everyday life. This is a consequence resulting from a study of geckos walking on leaves. That is a true story of gecko feet. The world is not what it seems.

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages.


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