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NDSU Assistant Professor to Discuss ‘Why Stuff Sticks’ at September Science Café

Fargo, N.D. – Andrew Croll, assistant professor of physics at NDSU, is scheduled to present the September Science Café, titled “Why Stuff Sticks: Geckos, Bugs, Nanotechnology and the Quest for Really Good Duct Tape,” on Tuesday, Sept. 11, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Stoker’s Basement, Hotel Donaldson.

The talk will discuss the background behind modern adhesives and then explore the differences in how adhesion is accomplished by natural organisms such as the gecko. Topics will range from fundamental physics to engineering, nanotechnology and biology and will end with a look at the future for the modern gecko – bioinspired adhesives. “Wouldn’t it be great to be Spiderman and climb up a building?” Croll said. “If geckos can do it, why can’t we? The Spiderman effect wows people, but the basic idea is for scientists and engineers to look at the abilities of creatures and be able to scale it up.”

Why things stick has significant practical applications. Not only is there a considerable adhesives industry, but adhesion forms one of the biggest limitations on the design of nanotechnology, which is the science of manipulating materials on an atomic or molecular scale, especially to build microscopic devices. A nanometer is 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

“In general, nanotechnology means something created by humans, but this is not always the case,” Croll said. “The shiny colors of many insects are natural nanotechnology, as are the structures formed on gecko toes that allow them to stick.”

Stickiness limits nanotechnology design because nano-sized objects almost always stick to each other, Croll said. “Because of this stickiness we can’t just shrink down large things, such as gears, because the physics is different from our everyday large-sized lives.”

Croll said part of the solution to overcoming such issues could be found by mimicking nature. “A nice analogy is that for much of history, mankind was interested in flight,” he said. “We looked at birds and said, ‘they have feathers so, clearly, you need feathers to fly.’ That isn’t quite true – it’s the wing that is important. It’s similar to how we make discoveries in modern adhesives.”

Attendees must be 21 or older or accompanied by a parent or guardian. Science Café, sponsored by NDSU’s College of Science and Mathematics, features a presentation by a scientist and time for discussion with the scientist and other attendees. For more information on upcoming Science Cafés, which are held monthly, visit

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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