Geckos are versatile little guys. Not only can they sell you car insurance in just a few minutes, they’re legendary for their ability to stick. Yes, their feet pads are covered with tiny hairs that combine to create a switch-on, switch-off stickiness that can support an impressive 50 times a gecko’s body weight, according to this Washington Post gecko primer.
Of course scientists and engineers have long been intrigued by this remarkable sticky ability, hoping to harness it for all sorts of commercial and industrial applications. Now, a tech company, nanoGriptech, has rolled out its Setex product, which it describes as “the world’s first commercial implementation of dry adhesive technology—enabling a pressure-sensitive adhesive approach, but one that is dry, repeatable, and residue-free.” Setex is aimed at product designers and manufacturing engineers, who no doubt will have plenty of uses in mind for an adhesive that can be used over and over again without leaving sticky residue behind.
Like those hairs on the gecko’s tiny feet, Setex uses an “advanced, nano-level, geometric design,” the nanoGriptech team explains. “Setex, like gecko’s feet, is made up of millions of microscopic structures which form molecular-level bonds—known as Van der Waal’s forces—with a mating surface. When multiplied across millions of fibers, Setex forms a very strong, dry, residue-free, and repeatable connection solution.”
So how might we encounter Setex in our day-to-day lives? Well, nanoGriptech divides its uses into three categories: dry adhesives, gripping/friction material, and flexible fasteners.
As a dry adhesive, Setex can fasten product packaging, suspend heavy items, and more. In fact, in one demonstration the nanoGriptech crew used a three-inch square of one-sided Setex tape to hold a 185-pound man on a swing! While that’s an impressive feat in itself, the fact that you could then unstick and restick the swing again makes the product even more amazing.
The gripping/friction benefits of Setex can help sports teams with equipment that tends to slip when it becomes wet or sweaty, and soccer goalies and football receivers will probably be lining up to try out gloves for better ball control. (We’re not sure if professional sports will endorse these, though…)
Another important gripping use: surgical instruments. Surgeons need precision control without stickiness or loss of sensation, and Setex can be just what the doctor ordered. The product can have other medical uses, too. “Current gripping material used on orthotics, braces, prosthetics, face masks and other medical equipment that comes in contact with skin often slip, become contaminated or use materials that smell over time,” says nanoGriptech. “Such materials do not work well with concave surfaces or in situations that need low profile, non-tacky gripping,” either. Cue Setex.
Safety is another area where a good grip can be a matter of life or death. Setex can secure a breathing mask tightly but comfortably to the skin with no danger of the apparatus slipping; it can also give police officers a solid grip on their service weapons.
The fastening elements of Setex can also allow manufacturers to seal car and household upholstery while still leaving it able to be open and removed for cleaning by consumers. Truthfully, the possibilities are almost endless. Now, it’s just up to the rest of the world to put Setex to work.