Gecko-inspired technology for ‘climbing’ space robots

Washington, Aug 17 (IANS) To develop the next generation of exploratory space robots, the US space agency has turned to geckos for “ultimate stickiness”.

After studying the way geckos use their physical property to hang upside down, engineer Aaron Parness from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California has made a material that uses tiny hairs like lizards to grip the surface.

In a zero-gravity test, the prototype technology was able to stick to and manipulate a 10 kg cube and a person weighing 100 kg, wired.com reported.

The tests have revealed over 30,000 stick-and-unstick repetitions with no loss of effectiveness.

The new material can soon be used on the International Space Station (ISS).

Geckos use thousands of very small hairs on their feet to hang upside down and on walls.

The effect is known as “van der Waals force” that manipulates electrical fields to get “ultimate stickiness”.

The sticky effect persists at different temperatures, pressures and under intense radiation and can be reused endlessly.

The US space agency is also reportedly working on a “Lemur 3” climbing robot.

It will use the gecko-inspired technology to climb on the outside of spacecraft, performing inspections with more efficiency, even grab satellites to repair them and service them.

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