Hold on tight!
This is the whole point of the research in addition to gaining an understanding of the phenomenon: being able to design a mechanism which can adhere strongly as well as detach rapidly (the insect takes dozens of steps per second and can support up to ten times its own weight!). The goal would be to use such a robotic tool in the field of micromanipulation. Currently the smallest manufactured electronic components are about 200-400 microns in size, not due to a fabrication limitation, but because smaller objects would be impossible to handle. On the other hand insects daily attach and detach structures that are only 5 microns wide (their hairs). What enables them to do so is amongst other? the presence of liquid and precise leg movements that the researchers would like to reproduce with a bio-inspired tool.
This will be the focus of future research in the Liege and Brussels laboratories. A joined project supported by the FNRS aims to study how the liquid is secreted and channelled towards the hairs and how this is optimized by the animal. Indeed, as the insect loses liquid at each step it has to renew it . This represents a lot of energy so it must be used frugally. The researchers therefore suspect that the dock beetle has developed movements aimed at energy saving and moves in such a way that it loses? a minimal amount of liquid!