Never let anyone crush your dreams. Last week the results of a University of Cambridge study spread through the news, claiming that the dream of Spider-Man-like abilities for humans is simply impossible. By their reasoning, sticky pads need to scale up in order to support increased weight, and as a result, the size of a gecko is about as big as a vertical climber can be. The only problem? An engineer at Stanford showed off a way around that problem back in 2014. Now Elliot Hawkes has dropped a diss track on YouTube firing shots at Cambridge and Stephen Colbert, showing off his climbing skills thanks to a "Gecko Glove."
By being "clever about how you distribute weight," Hawkes shows that yes, a human being can climb a glass wall. The Stanford design uses a process that spreads weight evenly across the entire patch, making it efficient enough for a person to cling to a glass wall. There are 24 adhesive tiles on each pad, each covered in tiny sawtooth-shaped nanofibers (check them out working on Stanford's gecko-inspired StickyBot back in 2006) that do the actual work of sticking, but can unstick themselves when you pull them away in the correct direction.
The real magic that makes this device do what gecko pads alone cannot, is the depressive springs on the back of each tile, which help keep all the pressure spread equally. The shape-alloy springs work differently from regular springs, getting softer as you stretch them.
As you can see in the video, Hawkes may not be moving with the grace or speed of your imagined webslinger, but human wall-crawling can be done (slowly and carefully). The team claims its tech can theoretically scale up to hold as much as 2,000 pounds.