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Electrical forces behind gecko's sticky feet

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Electrical forces may be key to gecko's remarkable ability to cling to walls and ceilings, scientists have found.

Alexander Penlidis at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and his colleagues wondered if electrical forces, which result from the movement of electrons from one surface to another, might help geckos keep their grip, in the same way that a balloon rubbed on clothing sticks to a wall.

The team measured the electric charge on geckos' feet as they gently dragged them across Teflon or a silicone rubber called PDMS.

They discovered that as soon as a gecko's toe pad touched a surface, the pad became positively charged while the surface became negatively charged, creating an electrostatic attraction, 'New Scientist' reported.

When the team compared the strength of the electrostatic force with the strength of the adhesion between the gecko's foot and the surface, it found that the forces were of a similar strength.

This suggests that the electrostatic force is the dominant attractive force responsible for a gecko's sticky feet, said Penlidis.

The research was published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

First Published: Mon, July 14 2014. 15:43 IST