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Water as a “glue”: Elasticity-enhanced wet attachment of biomimetic microcup structures

Zhengwei Li's picture

Octopus, clingfish, and larva use soft cups to attach to surfaces under water. Recently, various bioinspired cups have been engineered. However, the mechanisms of their attachment and detachment remain elusive. Using a novel microcup, fabricated by two-photon lithography, coupled with in situ pressure sensor and observation cameras, we reveal the detailed nature of its attachment/detachment under water. It involves elasticity-enhanced hydrodynamics generating “self-sealing” and high suction at the cup-substrate interface, converting water into “glue.” Detachment is mediated by seal breaking. Three distinct mechanisms of breaking are identified, including elastic buckling of the cup rim. A mathematical model describes the interplay between the attachment/detachment process, geometry, elasto-hydrodynamics, and cup retraction speed. If the speed is too slow, then the octopus cannot attach; if the tide is too gentle for the larva, then water cannot serve as a glue. The concept of “water glue” can innovate underwater transport and manufacturing strategies.

Y Wang, Z Li et al.,  "Water as a “glue”: Elasticity-enhanced wet attachment of biomimetic microcup structures." Science Advances 8, no. 12 (2022): eabm9341.

Comments's picture

Congratulations on this fantastic work!

I am just curious what will happen if the substrate is nonflat? For example, cylinder or sphere surface?

Another question is, what if the substrate is also deformable?

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