Youtube: Scientists reach the heights with gecko-inspired robot

Faculty of Applied Sciences

Alumni profile: Jeff Krahn, Engineering

November 02, 2011
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Jeff Krahn completed his MASc in engineering at SFU this year, and now he's making headlines around the world with his robotic gecko.

The research, published in the IOP Publishing journal Smart Materials and Structures, provides an alternative to using magnets, suction cups or claws which typically fail at climbing smooth surfaces like glass or plastic. It also paves the way for a range of applications, from inspecting pipes, buildings, airplanes and even nuclear power plants to employment in search and rescue operations.

Known as the Tailless Timing Belt Climbing Platform (TBCP-11), the robot can transfer from a flat surface to a wall over both inside and outside corners at speeds of up to 3.4 cm per second. It is fitted with sensors that allow it to detect its surroundings and change direction.

Researchers mimicked the “dry, sticky toe pads” of the gecko by creating an adhesive using a material called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), manufactured as tiny mushroom cap-like shapes that are 17 micrometres wide by 10 micrometres high.

Lead author Jeff Krahn’s work on getting the robot to climb formed the bulk of his master’s thesis. The research was carried out together with engineering science assistant professor Carlo Menon in the MENRVA Research Group.

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