The Super Powers of Spiderman at Our Fingertips with Nanotechnology-enabled Glue

Adhesive that can be turned on and off offers interesting commercial opportunities...and super powers

1 min read
The Super Powers of Spiderman at Our Fingertips with Nanotechnology-enabled Glue

Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara have reported that they have developed a glue that can be activated and deactivated by magnetism, a sort of on/off switch for the material’s adhesiveness, that mimics the adhesive characteristics of a gecko’s foot.

The research is being heralded because of its interdisciplinary nature, combining “biology, material science, physics, surface chemistry, nanoscience and mechanical engineering”. Also, the article cited above provides a laundry list of possible applications for the technology ranging from improved handling of microchips in semiconductor fabs to greater transport capabilities of robots in pipeline inspection.

But clearly both the researchers and the reporter of the article neglected to see the most obvious potential application for this technology: Making possible the  ability to scamper around urban canyons like Spiderman.

Kidding aside, researchers have been looking at the gecko’s foot for some time as an example of how nanoscale hairs can be used as an adhesive force. While other research in this area focused on just the adhesive qualities, the UCSB researchers are the first to look at turning that adhesive on and off.

This is significant because there is a great deal of super strong adhesives out there already. However, currently there is no adhesive that can be turned on and off. Translation: Commercial opportunity.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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