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.

The Conversation (0)

3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

Keep Reading ↓Show less