Full's research into how the gecko uses its tail opens up the very real possibility of robotic vehicles capable of climbing walls — just like the Batmobile.
Full imagines a future in which vehicles can glide and robots have stabilizing tails.
"It’s an example of how basic research leads to unexpected applications,” Full said. “Engineering can be inspired by biology and its principles. Integrating that with the best human engineering can ultimately make something that’s better than nature.”
Amazing Spider Strength
In at least one case, UC research is muddying the water where comics end and science begins.
Spider-Man fans know that Peter Parker’s powers came from the bite of a radioactive spider.
But it was Parker's scientific know-how that helped him create Spidey's webbing. The secret formula was so strong that he could swing from skyscraper to rooftop on long strands of the stuff. It could be fashioned into armor, used to tie up villains or made into a sticky trap.
In an amazing case of science imitating art, similar applications are emerging from the lab of UC Riverside professor Cheryl Hayashi.
Her research into the properties of spider silk promises a range of uses, from surgical thread to toughened fabrics.
“Spider silk can be used in applications that would benefit from lightweight, strong, tough materials,” Hayashi said. “Studies have shown that silks have great promise for incorporation into a variety of technologies, including medical devices, high-value textiles, and electronics.”