Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The gecko doing the fullerene nanotube?

The gecko has billions of tiny hairs on its feet and these create adhesion by means of van der Waals forces. But the determination of this mechanism was only made in 2000 by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lewis and Clark College, Oregon. A research team at Akron, Ohio, has created a gecko array using
fullerene nanotubes. Fullerenes generally have been the darlings of nanotechnology but have been a solution looking for a problem. Now they may a good use.

Peter Forbes reported that last year the Berkeley team took out a patent listing a multitude of potential uses, including press-on fingernails, clean room processing
tools and insect-trapping tape. The Berkeley patent application published in 2004 (20040005454; app. no. 338104; filed January 6, 2003) has a representative claim:

1. A method of forming an adhesive force, said method comprising the steps of: removing a seta from a living specimen [OUCH!]; attaching said seta to a substrate; and applying said seta to a surface so as to establish an adhesive force between said substrate and said surface.

One notes that the '104 app claims priority to a provisional: "This application claims priority to the provisional patent application entitled, "Non-Interlocking Dry Adhesive Microstructure and Method of Forming Same," Serial No. 60/172,731, filed Dec. 20, 1999." Hmmm, how can a patent application filed in 2003 claim priority to a provisional filed in 1999?

There are government rights: This invention was made with Government support under Grant (Contract) No. N00014-98-C0183 awarded by DARPA through a subcontract from I.S. Robotics. The Government has certain rights to this invention.

There is a different published application (20050181170; 080037; filed March 14, 2005) which claims priority to a different provisional (This application claims the benefit of the earlier filing date of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/380,595, filed May 13, 2002, which is incorporated herein by reference. Hmm, same question) This invention was made with Government support under Grant (Contract) No. N66001-01-C-8072 awarded by DARPA. The Government has certain rights to this invention.

A representative claim:

30. A method of fabricating an adhesive microstructure comprising: molding a structure having shafts supporting a plurality of stalks at an oblique angle; removing said structure to provide a template; molding the template with a polymer; and separating the template from the polymer to form the microstructure.


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