Supporting UMass Inventions: The GeckSkin Story

Two UMass Amherst Scientists in Very Different Disciplines Inspired by Geckos

The Story

At different locations on the campus of UMass Amherst, two scientists were independently analyzing gecko adhesion with different aims. Biologist Duncan Irschick had been studying gecko climbing and clinging adhesion for over 20 years.

Polymer scientist Alfred Crosby had been working on polymer adhesion for almost as long and was interested in creating a novel adhesive material that would embody gecko attributes. They believed that if adhesives were made with stiff fabrics, adhesive force could increase dramatically. Most commercial adhesives are soft and gooey, yet the Crosby group believed that this compliant nature was a limitation.

Curious if their ideas about stiffness were upheld in geckos, the Crosby team reached out to Duncan Irschick. Working together they discovered, as hypothesized, that gecko’s possessed stiff tendons attached to their toepads, which acted much like the stiff fabric adhesives that the Crosby Lab had been developing.

The Geckskin® technology was formally revealed to the world in February of 2012 with the publication of an article in the journal Advanced Materials. To prove the science published in the journal, the researchers demonstrated a breakthrough in material science. Using commercially available materials (no nano or micro structures) they held 350 lbs in the Crosby Lab on a pane of glass with composite technology, which is now called Geckskin.

This feat caught the attention of Science Channel, Discovery Channel, NatGeo, and many more. The Geckskin technology became an international phenomenon when those videos aired (and are still shown) worldwide. Bloomberg named Geckskin one of 14 smart inventions inspired by nature. CNN Money named it a top five science breakthrough.

In April 2013, with Rana K Gupta, Professors Crosby and Irschick founded Felsuma LLC to commercialize the Geckskin technology. Felsuma has developed a portfolio of products with non-damaging, reusable Grip & Peel™ capability for multiple surfaces. Click here to purchase products from their website.

Learn more about the technology behind GeckSkin.