The millions of tiny hairlike nanostructures on geckos' toes are helping scientists develop self-cleaning nontoxic adhesives and climbing robots. It is remarkable that scientific curiosity about how a lizard can climb on the ceiling has lead to valuable advances in nanotechnology. Research on adhesive nanostructures in geckos as an example of how basic science can lead to serendipitous discoveries that have broad applications. My research team discovered that a gecko's toe adheres to surfaces by a nanostructure, not chemical glue. This led to the development of synthetic adhesive nanostructures that may be used in medical, sports, and household applications, and may reduce the need for toxic glues and solvents in general assembly. I will review our past and current research on the gecko adhesive, and also discuss some of our recent collaborations with engineers in developing legged climbing robots for space exploration and search and rescue applications. My seminar will conclude with a general consideration of basic and applied research. Curiosity-based, basic research focuses on advancing knowledge for its own sake. Basic research is also fundamental to advances in applied science and engineering, as exemplified by our research on gecko adhesion.
Prof. Autumn received his B.A. in Mathematics and Biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1988, and his Ph.D. in Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley in 1995. He continued at Berkeley as an Office of Naval Research Postdoctoral Fellow until 1998, and joined the faculty of Biology at Lewis & Clark College in the same year.