Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

No Spiderman Suit Anytime Soon

Gloves that mimic gecko or spider feet could work in theory, but actually making them will be a challenge.

  • August 31, 2007

Carbon-nanotube-encrusted gloves could allow humans to climb walls and dangle from the ceiling, if they so choose. So says Nicola Pugno, a professor at the Politecnico di Torino, in Italy, who just published a paper on the topic in the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter. He calculated that tiny forces attracting billions of the nanoscopic tubes to the surfaces of walls could add up to enough stickiness to support a human.

Such gloves are clearly of the utmost importance to astronauts and cat burglars. But don’t expect results very soon. Recently, Ali Dhinojwala, a professor of polymer science at the University of Akron, and his colleagues actually made carbon-nanotube-encrusted tape that sticks to walls like gecko feet. But it performed much worse than expected. Earlier, when the researchers had tested small samples of the nanotubes, they stuck 200 times stronger than gecko feet did. But the larger tape was only four times stickier. Gloves made with this tape might have to resemble big paddles if they’re to provide enough stickiness to hold up a human. What’s more, the tape only works if it’s pressed hard against a surface–a feat that could require superhuman strength.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

    The MIT Technology Review App

  • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

  • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.