Geckos in space: Novel robot takes a step to cosmos

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Posted on January 3, 2014
A handout photo released on January 2, 2013 by the European Space Agency shows the six-legged Abigaille climbing robot, which is

A handout photo released on January 2, 2013 by the European Space Agency shows the six-legged Abigaille climbing robot, which is able to transition from vertical to horizontal surfaces
A wall-crawling robot inspired by the gecko has taken a small but important step towards a future in space, scientists said on Thursday.

The tiny legged prototype could be the forerunner of automatons which crawl along the hulls of spacecraft, cleaning and maintaining them, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

Its footpads are covered with dry microfibres modelled on the toe hair of the gecko, which is celebrated for its ability to scuttle up windows and along walls yet not leave a trace.

The lizard does the trick through millions of ultra-fine hairs called setae, which interact with the climbing surface to create a molecular attraction known as the van der Waals force.

Researchers at Canada’s Simon Fraser University first built a 240-gramme (eight-ounce) tank-like gecko-bot, using tracks with microfibre treads.

They then developed this into a six-legged climbing robot, nicknamed Abigaille.

“This approach is an example of biomimicry, taking engineering solutions from the natural world,” said team leader Mike Henrey.

The “dry adhesive” that helps Abigaille climb walls has now been put through its paces at a materials-testing lab at ESA’s European Space and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

Read more at: Phys.org