Silicone Material Is Inspired by Beetle Feet

October
2018

For most people, watching an insect crawl up a wall and onto the ceiling is an unsettling experience. For a scientist, it can be downright inspirational.

Inspired by beetle feet, materials scientists at Kiel Univ. (CAU) in Germany have developed a silicone elastomer with better adhesive properties than conventional silicone materials.

Synthetic silicone elastomers are popular because they are flexible and inexpensive. Common applications include sealing, insulating, and corrosion protection. However, the material is limited because of its low adhesiveness. To improve on these manufactured materials, the CAU researchers drew from the natural movement of beetles.

The beetle in question is male leaf beetle Chrysomelidae, which has feet dotted with tiny, mushroom-shaped segments that help the bug cling onto its mate’s back for long-term attachment during copulation and for protection from rivals. This affair of the heart inspired CAU scientists to cover the surface of their silicone elastomers with mushroom-like microstructures.

The team based their design on contact splitting, a process that divides surface structures into smaller units that conform more effectively...

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