Harun Yahya

‘Sticky’ gloves produced using the nanotechnology in the gecko foot


The gecko is just one of the hundreds of millions of life forms in the world. The most striking feature of this animal is a special technology in its feet that allows it to climb up smooth walls and cling to the ceiling. The world of science has for years been researching this ‘sticky’ technology that the gecko has been flawlessly using since the moment it was first created, and every new study reveals new details and marvels.



A fossil of a gecko in amber dating back 110 million years [1] proves that this life form has remained unchanged for millions of years and has been expertly climbing up smooth surfaces since it was first created. However, science is now trying to understand how this  functions.



Studying scientific research and reflecting on the findings that emerge is a religious observance that all Muslims guided by the Qur’an perform with great joy and fervor. God described how believers reflect on creation as follows; “...those who remember God, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire." (Qur’an, 3:191) The gecko is one of the glorious life forms brought into being by God for us to reflect upon His creation.

Examination of the gecko’s foot reveals millions of tiny hairs known as setae. These nanostructures are just one two- billionth of a meter in size. Each one of these setae has approximately 1,000 microscopic hairs known as spatulas. The number of spatulas is therefore in the billions.

The word "nano" refers to a physical size of one in a billion. A nanometer is therefore one billionth of a meter. A better idea of the scale can be obtained by considering that the diameter of a human hair is approximately 100,000 nanometers. To put it another way, just two or three atoms could be laid side by side in one nanometer.



The nano-scale setae beneath the gecko’s feet create millions of points of contact with the surface it stands on. These nano-structures need almost no energy to move because it takes just a small angled force to activate their adhesive properties. Thanks to this feature, the gecko is able to bear 50 times its own weight.[2]

According to one study, the tiny hairs on the gecko foot are able to exhibit adhesive properties because of weak electrostatic attraction (Van der Waals Force): "Intermolecular forces come into play because the gecko foot hairs split and allow a billion spatulae to increase surface density and come into close contact with the surface. This creates a strong adhesive force."[3]



Elliot Hawkes, an American engineer from Stanford University was recently inspired by this adhesive technology in the gecko foot to design gloves that can be used by humans. Researchers are planning to scale buildings made of glass with these gloves and other horizon-broadening activities.

The technology used by engineers in these gloves mimic the structure in the gecko’s foot, using friction to create an adhesive effect. The surface area of the gloves is increased through wire-like nanofibers reminiscent of the spatulas in the gecko foot. This enables the person wearing the gloves to hang suspended from a surface.

Hawkes and his team developed a material known as PDMS for this purpose. The wire-like nanofibers in this material react to the surface. When pulled downward, they become straight and cling tighter to the surface due to electromagnetic attraction. When special materials known as ‘shape memory alloys’ are used to attach PDMS to patches, these patches can then be used in the form of gloves. This technology distributes a person’s weight in the most efficient manner, making it possible to cling to sheer surfaces. Calculations show that these gloves can easily bear the weight of a 60-kg human being.[4]

The special structure in the gecko foot can only be investigated with today’s technology, using an electron microscope. It would of course be irrational to suggest that the gecko itself invented the techniques outlined here. Scientists are only now unraveling the technology that these animals have been using to perfection for millions of years. The system can be generally summarized as the creation of a sticky effect by using the force of friction in the nano-scale hairs, the use of electromagnetic attraction between molecules for that purpose, and the way that micro-fibers and nano-hairs are set out such as to use the minimum amount of energy.

The absence of any one of these properties in the gecko’s foot, if the micro-hairs were not 100 microns long and two microns in diameter - if they were not on a nano-scale in other words - the adhesive effect in question would not be possible. All the details that this life form used to climb up smooth walls and hang from the ceiling need to be present fully formed in order for this effect to come about. The absence of any one of the components, or any one of them not being fully formed, would make the system totally inoperable. Therefore, it is impossible, as evolutionists maintain, that it waited millions of years for another property to come about by chance.

It is God Who creates the breathtaking technology in the gecko’s foot and Who gives it its flawless form and features. “He is God – the Creator, the Maker, the Giver of Form. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Everything in the heavens and earth glorifies Him. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise.” (Qur’an, 59:24)


 



[1] Researchers Find Oldest Gecko Fossil Ever Discovered, Oregon State University

(http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2008/aug/researchers-find-oldest-gecko-fossil-ever-discovered)



[2] Washington Post, 12 August 2014 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2014/08/12/new-research-investigates-the-physics-of-sticky-gecko-feet/)



[3] Scientists prove how Gekos stick, Science Daily, 28 August 2002 (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/08/020828063412.htm)



[4] Newsweek, 21 November 2014 (http://www.newsweek.com/gecko-gloves-let-scientist-climb-sheer-glass-walls-286149)

 


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