The feet of the gecko cling to virtually any surface. This scanning electron microscope image shows one of the branching hairs, or setae, on the sole of a gecko's foot. These hairs nestle into nanoscale niches on the contact surface.
The gecko's amazing ability to cling to vertical or inverted surfaces is due to the interaction between nanoscale structures on its feet and tiny crevices on the wall or ceiling. The soles of gecko feet are made up of overlapping adhesive lamellae covered with millions of superfine hairs, or setae, each of which branches out at the end into hundreds of spatula-shaped structures. These flexible pads—each measuring only a few nanometers across—curve to fit inside unseen cracks and divots on the surface. The combined adhesion of these millions of pads holds the gecko in place.
• SIZE: Each seta measures about 200 nm.
• IMAGING TOOL: Scanning electron microscope
- Nanometer-sized things are very small, and often behave differently than larger things do.
- Nanoscience, nanotechnology, and nanoengineering lead to new knowledge and innovations that weren't possible before.
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