Now Using Renewable Materials, Super Adhesive Echoes Geckos

UMass Amherst team creates ‘Green Geckskin,’ a reusable, sustainable adhesive

AMHERST, Mass. – Traditional adhesives, usually petroleum-based and often intended for a single use, present a sticky situation for sustainability, but now the University of Massachusetts Amherst inventors of Geckskin, the reusable material able to hold hundreds of pounds with an index-card-sized swatch, have re-designed this remarkable adhesive using renewable materials.

“Green Geckskin” is the latest product trademarked by UMass Amherst from the polymer science and engineering team of Professor Al Crosby and researcher Michael Bartlett, who with others including biologist Professor Duncan Irschick, first introduced the flexible adhesive Geckskin in 2012. It mimics a gecko’s ability to strongly attach its toes yet easily detach from walls and ceilings, over and over. Bartlett and Crosby describe the new development in a recent issue of Advanced Materials.

The UMass Amherst polymer scientists are excited about possible new uses for Green Geckskin. For example, Bartlett and Crosby demonstrate that their adhesives made from renewable materials could be used to easily attach and release a solar panel to provide a portable charge for an electronic device at many different locations, from bus stop to office window, over the course of a day.

Crosby and colleagues say the shift toward sustainable adhesives could have a significant impact on the environment while increasing adhesive effectiveness. Crosby says, “The gecko provided the inspiration for Geckskin, so we looked back to nature once again for materials to create renewable, reusable adhesives.”

To create the new, more sustainable adhesive materials, the scientists use natural rubber impregnated into stiff natural fiber fabrics such as cotton, hemp and jute. As with the original invention, this simple yet versatile combination of materials allows the pad to “drape” over a surface to maximize contact while simultaneously being stiff, which enables the adhesive pad to hold a heavy load while maintaining easy release leaving behind no residue.

“We show that these adhesives can be repositioned and reused over many loading cycles without any loss of performance,” they write. And, they can be composted or repurposed at the end of use.Crosby adds, “This work represents a breakthrough on multiple grounds. They are reversible adhesive materials which are renewable, reusable and ultimately biodegradable, providing multiple routes to sustainability.”

The inventors conclude, “We expect that these reversible adhesive materials will offer utility in a wide variety of uses where environmentally responsible, temporary fastening or hanging is desired for consumer or industrial applications.

This work was supported by the UMass Amherst Office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property.


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