Attached to mushrooms
Researchers from the Dutch Wageningen University developed a material that sticks better than Velcro and leaves no trace, inspired by mushrooms.
Velcro and Velcro-like substances work by two surfaces interlocking in order to stick together. However, when pulled apart, one of both surfaces are damaged, meaning the adhesive properties diminish over time.
The Wageningen researchers developed a solution for this. They designed a surface made of silicone rubber that is densely covered in tiny mushroom-shaped pillars. The substance adheres to rough surfaces like textile, where adhesion occurs because the tiny mushrooms interlace with the mesh fabric. Because the material is flexible, neither the fabric nor the mushroom material is damaged when removed.
The production method is also new. The mould used to produce the mushroom material is 3D printed. Of this, a negative is made, and then a positive. The production method is patent pending.
The closer the mushrooms are packed together, the stronger the adhesive effect. However, this also reduces the adhesive strength of each individual mushroom because the mushrooms influence each other through the surface, thus “communicating”. When you pull one mushroom loose, you also yank at its neighbour due to the flexible surface.
The material works well on rough surfaces. For smoother surfaces, experiments are being conducted with tiny suction cups instead of mushrooms.
Image: Wageningen University