By now, most roboticists are familiar with the myriad gecko-type robots that employ Van der Waals forces (created by microscopic synthetic setae) to cling to walls. Less well-known is the work on an electrically-controllable alternative developed by researchers at SRI International (formerly called Stanford Research Institute) called “electroadhesion”. Impressively, the electroadhesive can support 0.2 to 1.4 N per square centimeter, requiring a mere 20 micro-Watts per Newton. This means that a square meter of electroadhesive could hold at least 200kg (440 lbs) while only consuming 40 milli-Watts, and could turn on and off at the flick of a switch! Read on for pictures, videos, and discussion.
The patent: US 20080089002 A1