Spider-Man Suit Becomes Sticky Subject

Using nanotechnology, physicists say they believe they have found the formula for a Spider-Man suit. Recent research, published today in the Institute of Physics' Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, suggests that a combination of carbon nanotubes combined with van der Waals forces holds the solution.

Recently, researchers have come to understand how spiders and geckos effortlessly scuttle up walls and hang from ceilings but it was doubted that this natural form of adhesion would ever be strong enough to hold the weight of real life Peter Parkers.

Research concluded that van der Waals forces--the weak attraction that molecules have for each other when they are brought very close together--are responsible for these creatures' sticking power. The tiny hairs on a spider's feet attract to the molecules of surfaces, even glass, and keep them steady.

Professor Nicola Pugno, engineer and physicist at Polytechnic of Turin, Italy, has formulated a hierarchy of adhesive forces that will be strong enough to suspend a person's full body weight against a wall or on a ceiling, while also being easy to detach.

Carbon nanotube-based technology could be used to develop nano-molecular hooks and loops that would function like microscopic Velcro. This detachable, adhesive force could be used in conjunction with van der Waals forces and capillary adhesion.

"There are many interesting applications for our theory, from space exploration and defense, to designing gloves and shoes for window cleaners of big skyscrapers," Pugno said.

Pugno added that, "With the idea for the adhesion now in place, there are a number of other mechanics that need addressing before the Spiderman suit can become a reality. Size-effects on the adhesion strength require further research. Moreover, man's muscles, for example, are different to those of a gecko. We would suffer great muscle fatigue if we tried to stick to a wall for many hours."

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  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - January 2019

    January 2019

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