Wageningen University has produced a fastening material inspired by the shape of mushrooms that is stronger and gentler than Velcro
Materials called “hook-and-loop“, such as Velcro, find application in many common areas. The biggest drawback of Velcro is the ease with which it can be damaged through wear and tear. The plastic that creates the little hooks is rigid and can deform under heavy pressure or excessive tearing. Researchers at Wageningen University, Netherlands, have invented a new tear-off adhesive material that is much more durable. The research was published in the international journal Biointerphases.
The new fastening system is made thanks to a 3D printer that makes it possible to replace classic rigid hooks with soft plastic structures shaped like tiny mushrooms. The new material, when pressed against a tissue, adheres thanks to the shape of the upper part of the mushrooms that is embedded in the fibers of the tissue. At the moment of detachment, however, the specially shaped appendages untangle easily from the fibers, making the tear quiet and gentle. The lower force required ensures that the fabric and the adhesive material are not damaged.
The applications of the new material are many. One case hypothesized by researchers is the use in diapers or military clothing to create silent closures. The design and production are still being tested and researched, but initial results bode well. One day, the material could also be exploited in the field of robotics to create automata capable of climbing walls, like geckos. The possibilities are many and, once again, nature has helped researchers to reinvent and improve materials that have become common in our society.
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