Gecko-inspired DARPA paddles lets you become Spider-man

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has developed new paddles that allow users to climb vertical walls like Spider-man. For the first time in history, a fully-grown person climbed a glass wall more than two stories in the air.

The Z-man program aimed at designing a new tool for soldiers to use when climbing walls. Traditionally, fighters in wartime have had to rely on ladders and ropes to overcome vertical surfaces. These are both noisy and bulky, making it difficult for warriors to climb quietly when needed.

“The gecko is one of the champion climbers in the Animal Kingdom, so it was natural for DARPA to look to it for inspiration in overcoming some of the maneuver challenges that U.S. forces face in urban environments,” Goodman said.

This challenge was one many species had already faced in the wild. Geckos, able to climb vertical surfaces, were an inspiration to the inventors.

“[N]ature had long since evolved the means to efficiently achieve it. The challenge to our performer team was to understand the biology and physics in play when geckos climb and then reverse-engineer those dynamics into an artificial system for use by humans,” Matt Goodman, DARPA program manager for the Z-Man program, told the press.

The lizard uses microscopic tendrils, called setae, that end with flat spatulae. This dual structure provides the creature with an extremely large surface area coming into contact with whatever it touches. This allows van der Waals forces, a magnetic attraction between atoms, to hold the lizard in place. This same technique is used for the paddles.

Draper Laboratory, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts assisted the military technology developers in creating the devices. The business developed the unique microstructure material needed to make the design work.

The demonstration climb involved a climber weighing 218 pounds, in addition to a 50-pound load in one trial. He ascended and descended the vertical glass surface, using nothing but a pair of the paddles.

Warfare constantly advances in technology and strategies, but ropes and ladders – still needed to scale walls – have not significantly changed in thousands of years.

“‘Geckskin’ is one output of the Z-Man program. It is a synthetically-fabricated reversible adhesive inspired by the gecko’s ability to climb surfaces of various materials and roughness, including smooth surfaces like glass,” DARPA officials wrote on the Z-man Web site.

Advances in this bio-inpspired technology could have benefits beyond the battlefield. Materials similar to the the structure in the pad could be used as temporary adhesives for bandages, industrial and commercial products.

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/8287/20140610/gecko-inspired-darpa-paddles-become-spider-man.htm

Magnet-Swallowing Hamster

 

A HAMSTER spent the Easter break recovering with its owners from the unusual ordeal of eating a Spider-Man magnet and becoming stuck to the metal bars of its cage.

Kate Meech and her four children returned to their Bugbrooke home last Thursday afternoon to find four month-old Smurf quite distressed, attached to the outside of its cage.

Kate said: “When I saw the small circular shape from inside her cheek I realised she was attached by a magnet.

“It took a bit of a tug to pull her away from it and then we had to keep her in a plastic box, for obvious reasons.

“She seemed to be fine so I thought she would just spit it out if she was left alone.

“But after checking on her for a few days I realised that, instead, her body started to push it out of her cheek, treating it as a foreign body.

“It made me feel quite queasy.

“We found the magnet and she just has a little graze on her cheek. But she’s back to her normal, loopy self.”

Mrs Meech said the magnet was understood to have come from the foot of her 10-year-old son Thomas’s toy Spider-Man figure.

She added: “I’ve warned the children to keep their toys away from the cage from now on.”

http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/local/spider-man-magnet-swallowing-hamster-recovering-after-sticking-itself-to-bars-of-metal-cage-1-3719398#