Researchers at Simon Fraser University in the US have created a robot Gecko that can climb walls using an adhesive that mimics real gecko feet.

The SFU gecko can currently climb at 3.4cm a second, using hundreds of silicon bumps just 0.017mm wide and 0.01mm high to tread surfaces, and SFU have posted pictures of the robot on their Flickr site.

Right now, real-life applications for this include having these nifty little robots clinging to the sides of skyscrapers, climbing the inside of nuclear power plant chimneys and being employed in search and rescue operations.

Lead researcher Jeff Krahn said: "With an adequate power supply, our robot is capable of functioning fairly independently when it encounters larger-scale objects such as boxes or walls.  However, we are still developing a control strategy to ensure the robot is capable of fully autonomous functionality."

Krahn said that the robot, still in the prototype stage, utilises biomimetic dry adhesives that rely on Van der Waals forces – weak but attractive forces that occur between molecules - for adhesion. 

"The adhesives are composed of an array of micro-scale fibres which look similar to flat-topped mushroom caps. This design allows the fibres to conform to relatively rough surfaces, as is important for Van der Waals forces."

Besides using dry adhesives, the robot is unique in that instead of a tail as required by previous tank-like robots, it uses two modules linked by an active joint to ensure contact of the adhesives.

Sensors were used to detect when detachment of the robot is beginning to occur and allows the robot to adjust itself accordingly.