Feeds

SPIDER-TROOP, Spider-troop, does whatever a spider troop can

Man uses sucker paddles to scale a 25-foot sheer glass wall

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Mad military boffinry agency DARPA has come up with the latest iteration of a fan-favourite tech – gecko-inspired climbing pads that will allow GI Joes to scale walls like Spider-Man.

The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has used its Z-Man project to get the first known example of a human climbing a 25-foot (7.62m) glass wall with nothing other than handheld paddles.

The 218-pound (99kg) climber went up and down twice, once with an additional 50lb (22kg) load, using the lizard-inspired paddles, which have been made from a polymer microstructure technology specially developed for DARPA by Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The agency envisions squads of soldiers using the Z-Man sucker-pads to reduce the risk of finding higher ground in combat situations.

“Historically, gaining the high ground has always been an operational advantage for war-fighters, but the climbing instruments on which they’re frequently forced to rely - tools such as ropes and ladders - have not advanced significantly for millennia,” DARPA said.

“Not only can the use of such tools be overt and labour intensive, they also only allow for sequential climbing whereby the first climber often takes on the highest risk.”

DARPA's gecko-inspired Z-Man paddles

The Z-Man project aim is to take inspiration from the animals to help soldiers carrying full combat gear to scale vertical walls.

“The gecko is one of the champion climbers in the Animal Kingdom, so it was natural for DARPA to look to it for inspiration in overcoming some of the manoeuvre challenges that US forces face in urban environments,” said Dr Matt Goodman, the DARPA programme manager for Z-Man.

“Like many of the capabilities that the Department of Defence pursues, we saw with vertical climbing that nature had long since evolved the means to efficiently achieve it. The challenge to our performer team was to understand the biology and physics in play when geckos climb and then reverse-engineer those dynamics into an artificial system for use by humans.”

Geckos have such powerful adhesive pressure in each limb that they can hang their entire bodies by just one toe. Each toe has a microscopic structure of tiny stalk-like setae – 100 microns long and two across. Each seta has in turn a bundle of hundreds of tips called spatulae – in essence, very fine hairs just 200 nanometres in diameter at their widest - which branch out and touch the climbing surface.

It is the size and shape of these fine hairs that allow the geckos to climb, not any specific surface chemistry, so it’s a design that can theoretically be copied, making them quite the inspiration for Spider-Man enthused boffins.

Way back in 2007, an Italian boffin proposed that a Spider-Man suit that would allow the wearer to scale walls and hang off ceilings should be possible, using gloves and boots with branching carbon nanotubes to emulate gecko toes and web strands from cables of nanotube fibres.

For the Z-Man project, the Draper Laboratory created new micro- and nanofabrication techniques to make the tiny hair structures of the gecko toe, while DARPA worked on supporting the extra weight of people. In order to suction off and on without ever toppling, the agency had to work out how to give the paddles enough adhesive force acting both parallel and perpendicular to the surface to keep the human stuck on.

DARPA plans to continue testing to perfect the technology. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.