Researchers often turn to nature for next-gen designs. Geckos have been muses in the past, providing insight into adhesion technology. Now, researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology aim to apply gecko-inspired tech to high-precision industrial settings, targeting robotic arms used in manufacturing computer chips.

"There are numerous ways that gecko adhesion could be used in an industrial setting, especially in handling delicate materials like the silicon wafers used in manufacturing computer processors," says Michael Varenberg, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech's George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

Tiny hairs allow the gecko to interact with surfaces at an intermolecular level. Together, they either hold firm to a surface, or release when pulled at an altered angle. Varenberg and his team have come up with a range of angles that will both strengthen grip, and allow for an easy release.

In industrial settings, researchers must determine all angles between the robotic arm and silicon wafer. Using a wall-shaped microstructure surface, the ideal attachment range settled between 60 to 90 degrees. For detachment at zero force, the range was 140 to 160 degrees.

This method could replace the ceramic contact used by many industrial-grade robotic arms, which often experience wear and tear, and can contaminate products.

“This reality is inconsistent with the cleanliness standards required in the semiconductor industry,” Varenberg says. “Using gecko adhesion microstructures instead would be better because they do not generate any damage to wafers and do not wear over time.”

The full details of the report can be found in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.