Story 2015-08-18 HP9S Climbing space robots to feature gecko-inspired grippers

Climbing space robots to feature gecko-inspired grippers

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in space on (#HP9S)
NASA robots may climb the walls of the International Space Station one day using grippers inspired by the super-adhesive feet of geckos. Scientists at the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, are developing a "gecko gripper" system that could help robots inspect and repair the space station's exterior, and perhaps conduct a wide range of activities in Earth orbit.

The gripping system doesn't lose its stickiness over time the way tape does, researchers added, and it should work well in all environments — even those featuring extreme temperatures, pressures and/or radiation conditions. The lizards rely on millions of tiny hairlike protrusions that become powerfully adhesive (to the electrons orbiting atoms) when bent, due to a phenomenon called van der Waals forces.

The team has already started testing out the gecko gripper in the micro-gravity environment, using the technology to grab and manipulate objects during parabolic airplane flights. The researchers have also affixed gecko-gripper feet to a climbing robot called Lemur 3, which can clamber over simulated solar panels and other spacecraft parts as a result.

Related article: Climb der Waals with gecko-inspired grippers
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