Sliding-induced adhesion of stiff polymer microfibre arrays. I. Macroscale behaviour
Gecko-inspired microfibre arrays with 42 million polypropylene fibres cm−2 (each fibre with elastic modulus 1 GPa, length 20 μm and diameter 0.6 μm) were fabricated and tested under pure shear loading conditions, after removing a preload of less than 0.1 N cm−2. After sliding to engage fibres, 2 cm2 patches developed up to 4 N of shear force with an estimated contact region of 0.44 cm2. The control unfibrillated surface had no measurable shear force. For comparison, a natural setal patch tested under the same conditions on smooth glass showed approximately seven times greater shear per unit estimated contact region. Similar to gecko fibre arrays, the synthetic patch maintains contact and increases shear force with sliding. The high shear force observed (approx. 210 nN per fibre) suggests that fibres are in side contact, providing a larger true contact area than would be obtained by tip contact. Shear force increased over the course of repeated tests for synthetic patches, suggesting deformation of fibres into more favourable conformations.