Beetles' Sticky Feet Lay Groundwork for Undersea Robots

Posted on 8/20/2012 8:38:15 AM By LiveScience; Charles Q. Choi

Beetles' feet are inspiring designs in gripper appendages that could be incorporated into robots capable of climbing submerged walls. Scientists studying ladybugs and leaf beetles found that adhesive-coated hairlike setae located at the tips of their legs enable the insects to walk underwater. Research showed that when specimens entered water, air bubbles caught between their setae helped keep the setae dry and sticky. The researchers designed an artificial substance that imitated setae in the form of a silicone rubber pad covered with 2.4-millimeter-high silicone rubber bristles with 0.2 mm-wide tips. These pads were used to stick a plastic toy bulldozer onto the side of a submerged wall. The grippers stayed sticky underwater even when they were not coated with glue, and the air bubbles themselves functioned as an adhesive through capillary action. The work could lead to "the application of adhesive devices for robots" as well as environmentally friendly adhesives for underwater use, according to Naoe Hosoda of Japan's National Institute for Material Science.

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