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Searching for Genghis
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The Transformation of EBU1
Geckos of the Sea
Blue Whale Blues
Swedish Science Prize
The Measure of a Woman
The Mack 'N Biz
Breathe Plant, Breathe!
Hurt Locker Robots

Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Geckos of the Sea

Abalone are the “geckos of the sea,” according to materials scientists at UC San Diego. While you won’t see an abalone running up a wall, they do have something to brag about —incredible strength. It is almost impossible to pull an abalone off an underwater rock or tank wall once you scare it—a fact that frustrates hungry otters. Now Albert Yu-Min Lin, Marshall ’04, M.S. ’06, Ph.D. ’08, and other researchers from Professor Marc Meyers' UCSD biomimetics lab at the Jacobs School of Engineering, have an explanation: The top surface of the red abalone foot looks strikingly similar to the made-for-wall-climbing surface of a gecko foot. Both are covered in nanofibers. Geckos rely on these fibers, just a couple hundred billionths of

a meter in diameter, to run up walls. In a paper published in ACTA Materialia the team reported that abalone use a similar strategy to lock down on surfaces. Molecular bonds between the nanofibers and the surface create “van der Waals” forces that, together with suction generated by capillary forces, make it so difficult to remove the abalone. Mimicking the abalone foot could lead to new biomedical applications, including better water-resistant surgical tape.

—Daniel Kane