Synthetic Gecko Skin was a material based on gecko feet that allowed people to climb walls like Spider-Man. Of course, that was not its first application.
Geckos had intrigued many people for years. They could climb walls with ease. Their fingers stuck when pressed laterally against a wall, but not sticky otherwise. Scientists puzzled on how this worked. Geckos used microscopic hairs called setae to climb walls. In 2000, the secret to seta stickiness was discovered. The setae were similar to carbon nanotubes in that they experienced the Van der Waals force. This was described by Dutch physicist Johannes Diderik Van der Waals, the namesake of the Van der Waals force, in 1873 in his book known in English as On the Continuity of the Gas and Liquid State, describing attractions and repulsions of atoms. Many people saw the chance to reverse engineer this feature of geckos.
Synthetic gecko skin came into commercial use in a series of steps.
Synthetic Gecko Skin Materials
Tech Level: 10
The earliest attempts to reverse engineer gecko skin used polymer-based setae. This was only a third as good as a gecko. Later attempts used carbon nanotubes. This was twice as good as a gecko. Like a gecko, these could stick fast if pressed laterally. When pulled off, the setae could pop-off one-by-one. Therefore, synthetic gecko skin could get pulled off very easily. Also, synthetic gecko skin never got dirty because the Van der Waals force did not work on smaller particles. Carbon nanotube setae, in particular, never got wet because they were hydrophobic, and thus, they could do much better on wet surfaces than polymer-based setae. Applications included stronger, reusable, waterproof bandages; gecko tape; emergency patches (carbon nanotubes only); adhesive astronaut boots; no-slip interlocking mechanical joints for robots; high-grip tires for road vehicles; and no-slip boots, gloves, and climbing gear. This was especially useful for robots.
Tech Level: 10
A geckobot was a robot that could climb like a gecko. It could adhere to any surface. The first application for geckobots was as small maintenance drones. They were designed to skim over the surface of an airplane to detect problems that needed to be solved. Soon, they were actually performing maintenance themselves. In the third decade of the 21st century, gecko bots were applied to other jobs from everyday ones like window washing to specialized ones like rescue, espionage, and surveillance. These jobs were simplified. The technology was later given to humans.
Synthetic Gecko Suit
Tech Level: 11
With the help of nanotechnology, synthetic gecko skin was appearing in normal clothes by the mid-21st century. Gloves and boots with synthetic gecko skin were available to climbers. Soon, because of climbing accidents, a full synthetic gecko suit was being developed. The entire body except the head was covered in synthetic gecko skin both inside and out when wearing the suit. A full-head mask was used if a person decided to sleep in an upside-down bed. It turns out that architecture was revolutionized. Houses were being built with upside-down rooms. There was one problem. People had to be well-trained to use a synthetic gecko suit. A lot of coordination was needed. Many people used genetic manipulation to enhance their coordination to levels beyond any human in the past. People who had rooms in their houses that were upside-down often genetically modified their blood vessels to be like those of a giraffe to keep blood from rushing to the head. Synthetic gecko skin changed society in more ways than one. Soon, synthetic gecko skin would do more than help people climb walls. It would camouflage them.