Far Out Tech

Swap Your Swiffer for This Dust-Zapping Tool Inspired by Lizards

Swap Your Swiffer for This Dust-Zapping Tool Inspired by Lizards
Image credit: Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Joe McDonald | Getty Images

Put away your old rags and feather dusters, people. Dust removal is going high tech.

Researchers at Yale University say they’ve found an unusual source of inspiration for a new tool to zap dust: the feet of geckos. Turns out, the adorable little lizards are able to climb walls and other surfaces because the pads of their feet are chock full of microscopic pillars and electrostatic.

Of course, making the jump from lizard feet to dust collecting is 100 percent obvious. “When you’re talking about dust, you’re talking about electrostatic charges,” Hadi Izadi, a Yale postdoctoral associate, said in a press release. Izadi was the lead author on recently published paper on the science behind the school’s tool in the war on dust.

Microscopic images of silica dust particles lifted by micropillars, 50 micrometers in diameter.
Image credit: Yale | Vanderlick Lab

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Yale says the thought behind this creative application originated in the school’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, where dusting valuable paintings was a chore. Apparently, acrylic paints are especially porous, so using any type of physical tool or cleaner would risk damaging the artwork.

With geckos on their minds, Izadi and his team developed a sheet of plastic that contains millions of microscopic, electrostatically charged pillars. Yale says they range in size from 2 to 50 micrometers in diameter to attract different size dust particles.

Unlike the sticky quality of lizard feet, Izadi’s sheet is made of elastic and a non-sticky polymer. In other words, it sucks up dust without getting stuck.

The researchers say they’ve tested their gecko-inspired dust sucker on multiple types of surfaces, so the application of this tool extends beyond the world of art conservation. Perhaps it’s time for Geico to sell more than just insurance.

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