The innovation engine for new materials

Alexis Leung

Alexis Leung


University of California, Santa Barbara


Chemical Engineering

Site Abroad: 

Leibniz Institute for New Materials, Saarbruecken, Germany


Vera Bandmann
Karsten Moh

Faculty Sponsor(s): 

Rene Hensel

Project Title: 


Project Description: 

Geckos are known for their unique climbing ability on all types of surfaces (rough, smooth, dry, wet, etc.) due to the complex hierarchal structure of their feet, which allows for easy attachment and detachment from a surface. A gecko’s foot exhibits the concept of “contact splitting” where adhesion increases when a single contact splits into finer ones because of an increase in contact area between the foot pad and the surface. This larger contact area allows van der Waals forces to overcome the attractive forces between conventional adhesives such as a suction cup and a surface. Thus, fabricated materials were developed to mimic the function of a gecko foot’s hierarchal structure without having the same complexity as an actual gecko foot. My goal is to illustrate the strength of the gecko adhesive by creating a demonstrator that showcases how the adhesive is strong enough to counteract the repulsive forces between two magnets of a given force. An adhesive is glued onto a discmagnet and placed inside a polycarbonate tube along with two other magnets encasing the magnet with the adhesive, causing the magnets to repulse. A pole is attached to the top magnet to press the magnets together, causing the magnet with the gecko adhesive to stick onto the other magnet, counteracting the forces of repulsion. A gentle push causes the pillars to buckle, allowing for easy detachment of the gecko structure. The demonstrator created clearly showcased the strength of the adhesive as well as its easy attachment and detachment from the surface.