Design and fabrication of polymer based dry adhesives inspired by the gecko adhesive system
There has been significant interest in developing dry adhesives mimicking the gecko adhesive system, which offers several advantages compared to conventional pressure sensitive adhesives. Specifically, gecko adhesive pads have anisotropic adhesion properties: the adhesive pads (spatulae) stick strongly when sheared in one direction but are non-adherent when sheared in the opposite direction. This anisotropy property is attributed to the complex topography of the array of fine tilted and curved columnar structures (setae) that bear the spatulae. In this thesis, easy, scalable methods, relying on conventional and unconventional techniques are presented to incorporate tilt in the fabrication of synthetic polymer-based dry adhesives mimicking the gecko adhesive system, which provide anisotropic adhesion properties. In the first part of the study, the anisotropic adhesion and friction properties of samples with various tilt angles to test the validity of a nanoscale tape-peeling model of spatular function are measured. Consistent with the Peel Zone model, samples with lower tilt angles yielded larger adhesion forces. Contact mechanics of the synthetic array were highly anisotropic, consistent with the frictional adhesion model and gecko-like. Based on the original design, a new design of gecko-like dry adhesives was developed which showed superior tribological properties and furthermore showed anisotropic adhesive properties without the need for tilt in the structures. These adhesives can be used to reversibly suspend weights from vertical surfaces (e.g., walls) and, for the first time to our knowledge, horizontal surfaces (e.g., ceilings) by simultaneously and judiciously activating anisotropic friction and adhesion forces. Furthermore, adhesion properties between artificial gecko-inspired dry adhesives and rough substrates with varying roughness are studied. The results suggest that both adhesion and friction forces on a rough substrate depends significantly on the geometrical parameters of the substrate. The results in this study may be helpful for understanding how geckos overcome the influence of natural surface roughness. The novel designs of our dry adhesives open the way for new gecko-like adhesive surfaces and articulation mechanisms that do not rely on intensive nanofabrication.