Gecko-inspired gloves let you scale walls of glass

Being able to scale walls like Spider-Man has just gone from being comic-book fiction to an exciting reality.

A newly developed synthetic adhesion system inspired by geckos has been created and tested, enabling a 70-kilogram (154-pound) human to scale a 3.6-metre (12-foot) pane of glass. You can see the test in the video below.

A gecko’s feet are covered in tiny hairs called setae, which are split into even smaller bristles called spatulae. These spatulae create an electromagnetic force, known as van der Waals force, which enables them to stick to almost any surface. Although this force is very weak, the gecko’s lightweight body and shear number of spatulae, make it possible to climb up walls and across ceilings.

A team of US scientists, led by Dr Elliot Hawkes from Stanford University, took inspiration from geckos to create tiny tiles called ‘microwedges’, which generate van der Waals force and produce a dry adhesive. These microwedges were then applied to pads that enabled a human to pull themselves up a wall of glass.

Discover more ground-breaking technologies in the latest issue of How It Works magazine!