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Scotch Tape Grabber

December 12, 2012

Scotch tape may have a new job as a key component of smart gripping materials.



Scotch tape gets serious.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scotch tape – yes, the Scotch tape you use to wrap gifts – is the main component of a new scientific tool.  The idea came from a doctoral student in the lab of Purdue University engineer Babak Ziaie.  He noticed that humidity made the tape curl up, because the smooth side absorbs water but the sticky side doesn’t.  So Ziaie’s team made little claws out of the tape. When the claw gets wet, its fingers curl tight enough to grasp a single drop of water. The claws are also magnetized, so they can be easily collected – for example, when testing a lake for bacteria.

BABAK ZIAIE (PurdueUniversity):

You can drop these guys and they can grab a droplet of water for you, and then you can come in with a very tiny magnet, collect them, and analyze the water.

But Ziaie says the grippers could be adapted to grasp almost any kind of small particle. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Graspers made from Scotch tape curl and close on contact with water. The tape is coated with magnetic particles, so a magnet can retrieve the grasper later. (Manuel Ochoa/Purdue University)