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How Gecko Teaches Us to Segment All Things. Learning Yet More from Nature

| On 17, Jun 2004

Velcro tape has got a counterpart on the micro-level: “Gecko tape”. The Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology in the University of Manchester has developed a new adhesive, a tape coated with 500-nanometer fibers that are 2 micrometers long. The glueless tape mimics the toe of the gecko. You can find already many articles on the “Gecko tape” in the Net, for example Liz Kalaugher’s story in [3].

Zoologist, broadcaster and author on wildlife David Attenborough described the gecko as follows: “These small tropical lizards can run up walls, scuttle upside down over ceilings, even cling to vertical panes of glass… scales are responsible. Those on the underside on the toes carry pads formed from enormous numbers of microscopic hairs, invisible to the naked eye… When pressed hard it engages on the tiniest roughnesses, even those that occur on the surface of glass.” [1, p. 164]

As we know from a well-known story, the developer of Velcro tape, Swiss engineer George de Mestral, also mimicked nature. After a hike he saw that his pants were covered with cockleburs. He examined the burr’s hooks under a microscope and got the idea to use tiny hooks and loops as fabric fastener. Velcro was invented.

Velcro and gecko tapes display the transition to micro-level or segmentation, see “Simplified TRIZ”, p. 114 and 133 [4]. Biomimetics or biomimicry fits well to patterns and principles studied in TRIZ!

Perhaps there are things in nature that are even tinier? Gecko tape was invented more than fifty years after Velcro. Knowing that the transition to micro-level is inevitable, we can forecast that there will be a following step, for example some kind of nano-tape. Individual nano-hooks were created from carbon ten years ago, but no one can yet produce whole nano-tapes. Perhaps somebody will find “nano-tape” in nature and solve the problem. About ongoing “nano-velcro” research, see Philip Ball’s paper in Nature News Service [2].


Old Solutions Help to Foresee New Ones
Writing on tapes I remembered other solutions I have described earlier in The TRIZ Journal. A series of 24 micro-stories gave new entertaining effects. They remind of the “series” of small florets in daisies and dandelions, see the papers “Micro-Stories, Daisies and Dandelions…” and “Improve it by breaking it…” [6, 7].

Let’s now implement the knowledge of ready solutions in the nature, technology and business to foresee new innovations.

In papers on the coffee room application of video technology[5] and on the deaf people as video communication pioneers [8] I have covered the evolution of visual messages What the transition to micro-level could mean in video communication? We imagine movies, TV programs and videoconferences usually as stories or sessions taking half an hour or more. If they are “hooks” or “flowers”, what are, then, “fibers” and “florets”? Perhaps there will be more mini and micro messages.

Really, “mini movies” or trailers of five minutes are already quite common. Video clips of length of 10-15 seconds, that can be created with new mobile phones, can be considered as “micro movies”. They may be humorous stories with images.

State Technical Research Centre VTT of Finland researched last year the use of mobile video. Both hearing-impaired and hearing people tested mobile video application installed in the multimedia phones. Deaf people were “lead users” and liked to use personal video clips. Transitions give new properties. They are properties that we actually need. Gecko tape gives stronger fixing, micro stories are more saleable and readable, florets are more attractive, short videos give a new form of information and entertainment. He we see the principle 2: Separation, see “Simplified TRIZ”, p. 136 [4].

I am sure that small vide clips will flourish, since they are evolving according to the evolution patterns.


1. Attenborough, D. Life on Earth. Fontana/Collins, Glasgow 1981.
2. Ball, P. Super-strong adhesive planned with hooked carbon strands. Nature News Service, 22 October 2003
3. Kalaugher, L. ‘Gecko tape’ sticks with polymer fibres, 3 June 2003
4. Rantanen, K., Domb, E. Simplified TRIZ: New Problem Solving Applications for Engineers & Manufacturing Professionals, CRC St. Lucie Press, Boca Raton FL USA. 2002
5. Rantanen, K. A Coffee Room Application of Video Technology. A Story of How to Find the Solution not Solving the Problem . The TRIZ Journal, May 2003, www.triz
6. Rantanen, K. Micro-Stories, Daisies and Dandelions. Segmentation makes the Product Attractive both in Journalism and in the Nature. The TRIZ Journal, October 2003, www.triz
7. Rantanen, K. Improve it by breaking it. Examples from journalism show segmentation helps to make ideas more saleable and cost-effective. The TRIZ Journal, October 2003, www.triz
8. Rantanen, K. Deaf People as Pioneers of Video Technology. How to Use Evolution Patterns and the Lead User Concept Together. The TRIZ Journal, February 2004, www.triz