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Cornell's switchable adhesive device keeps candy from falling, could let you dance on the ceiling (video)

Tim Stevens

Climbing walls is one of those odd feats that scientific establishments seem compelled to master -- despite there being few practical applications beyond the ultimate in Marvel-themed Halloween attire. The latest to tackle the challenge are Paul Steen and Michael Vogel from Cornell University, who have stolen the sticky-feet technique of a Floridian beetle that apparently failed to file a patent. The technique relies on the surface tension of water and capillary action of fluids forced through thousands of microscopic holes. When moisture is pushed through the holes it creates a suction on a smooth surface, enough at this point for the team's prototype to hold a weight of 30 grams. When the water is retracted the suction disappears. If all goes well, future implementations of a similar size could hold 15 pounds, meaning with enough of them you could climb a wall -- without leaving a sticky mess behind.

[Image and video courtesy of David A. Anderson]

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