Gecko tape
science breakthroughs 2012 geckskin

The natural world is one of the most reliable resources for tech inspiration. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the Pentagon's research arm, is well aware of this. Just last year, it rolled out a new version of a hummingbird-shaped spy drone that can even perch on windowsills to collect information.

But long before the general consumer can purchase his or her own mechanical avian espionage unit, civilians should be able to buy a product inspired by the footpad of a Gecko. The product, called Geckskin, is a super-strong adhesive. Geckskin was discovered by a team of scientists at the University of Massachusetts and, like other major biomimicry projects, it was funded by DARPA.

Unlike other DARPA projects, Geckskin could have more immediate uses for your everyday non-spy. For example, an index-card-size piece of Geckskin should support up to 700 pounds. That's enough might to secure large-screen televisions to a wall without damaging it or leaving residue after it's removed.

"This is cool not just because it is quirky and functional but because this is an early signal of things to come," says Tomczyk. "In the next few years, we will see more examples of commercial products and applications that replicate nature. "

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated December 31 2012 10:02 AM ET
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