Polymer Science Faculty Research


The Role of Surface Chemistry in Adhesion and Wetting of Gecko Toe Pads

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 10-17-2014


An array of micron-sized setal hairs offers geckos a unique ability to walk on vertical surfaces using van der Waals interactions. Although many studies have focused on the role of surface morphology of the hairs, very little is known about the role of surface chemistry on wetting and adhesion. We expect that both surface chemistry and morphology are important, not only to achieve optimum dry adhesion but also for increased efficiency in self-cleaning of water and adhesion under wet conditions. Here, we used a plasma-based vapor deposition process to coat the hairy patterns on gecko toe pad sheds with polar and non-polar coatings without significantly perturbing the setal morphology. By a comparison of wetting across treatments, we show that the intrinsic surface of gecko setae has a water contact angle between 70–90°. As expected, under wet conditions, adhesion on a hydrophilic surface (glass) was lower than that on a hydrophobic surface (alkyl-silane monolayer on glass). Surprisingly under wet and dry conditions the adhesion was comparable on the hydrophobic surface, independent of the surface chemistry of the setal hairs. This work highlights the need to utilize morphology and surface chemistry in developing successful synthetic adhesives with desirable adhesion and self-cleaning properties.

Publication Title

Scientific Reports