Feeds

Spiders inspire eight-legged Post-it notes

Arachnid molecular adhesion

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Scientists have discovered that spider on a ceiling could hold 170 times its own bodyweight before gravity would pull it from its perch.

And what use is this fascinating piece of information being put to? The betterment of mankind perhaps? Not a chance: it'll be used to make Post-it notes that stick even when wet.

Despite the rather daft application, the back-story is quite interesting. A team from Germany and Switzerland used a scanning electron micrograph to take pictures of a jumping spider's foot.

scanning electron microscope shot of the foot of a jumping spider

There are tufts of hairs on the bottom of the spider’s leg. Bristling out from each of these are more hairs, called setules, and they are what makes the spider stick.

The team published their findings: "Getting a grip on spider attachment", this week in the Institute of Physics journal Smart Materials. They found that it is the Vander Waals force that makes the spider stick. This is an attractive but short-range force that acts between molecules. Each of the setules is attracted to the molecules of the surface the spider is on.

The huge strength of the force is down to the vast number of setules on each foot: in total the jumping spider has around 600,000 to play with. According to Andrew Martin, from the Institute of Technical Zoology and Bionics in Germany, this is sufficient to allow it to support 170 times its own weight. "That’s like Spiderman clinging to the flat surface of a window on a building by his fingertips and toes only, whilst rescuing 170 adults who are hanging on to his back,” he is quoted as saying.

We'll be keeping an eye out for the terrible Hollywood action movie that is bound to follow this research: Watch Spidey as he battles for control of the office supplies cupboard against an evil cybernetic office manager armed with stapler. But we digress.

The interesting thing about the Vander Waals force is that it will work regardless of the surface: i.e., things will stick when wet or greasy etc. The only factor affecting its strength is the distance between the two surfaces.

But wait: how do you get the post-it unstuck? If it is sticking with such a huge force, you'll need to be pretty sure about where you stick it, surely? Fortunately no. The researchers believe as the spider raises its leg the setules are lifted successively rather than all at once. So all you'd need to do to get rid of your friendly neigbourhood yellow memo is peel it off slowly.

Thanks goodness too, that the researchers have more ideas as to what their discovery could be used for. Professor Antonia Kesel, head of the research group in Bremen suggests that “You could also imagine astronauts using spacesuits that help them stick to the walls of a spacecraft – just like a spider on the ceiling”.

Much better than a super heroic Post-it note, we are sure you'll agree. ®

Related links


The IOP publication
The Institute of Physics
A basic guide to Vander Waals forces
Normal Post-it notes

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.