A. The toes of geckos are covered in ridge-like lamellae, producing a tyre tread pattern
B. Millions of microscopic hairs, or setae, cover each toe. These are only as long as two diameters of a human hair
C. Each seta ends in up to 1000 even tinier tips, called spatulae
D. The spatular tips are only 200 billionths of a metre wide -below the wavelength of visible light
Several institutes have been developing robots that can climb walls - Stanford University's "Sticky-bot" can be seen in action here. Some scientists envisage "geckobots" being used to search for survivors in a burning building or disaster zone, to explore the rocky terrain of Mars, or even as toys.
Stanford University's Stickybot uses the principles of gecko climbing. But many in the field are most excited by more routine applications. Medicine is one target area for these adhesives. They could spawn advanced bandages that can be removed easily after healing or gripping surfaces on instruments designed for delicate surgery. Since the mechanism works in the wet, it could be used to affix implants within the body.
Stanislav Gorb, from the University of Kiel, studies biological adhesion; his work also looks at the way beetles stick to surfaces. He says gecko material has several advantages when compared with generic sticky tape. There is no "visco-elastic" adhesive to dry out, so it stays attached for longer and leaves no residue.
But he says that with current production methods, they are unlikely to replace classical sticky tape. "Maybe in 5-10 years we will have a method that will make the tape very cheap - right now it isn't. Secondly, right now, the forces are in the range or even lower than traditional sticky tape."