Mechanics of Adhesion and Contact Self-Cleaning of Bio-Inspired Microfiber Adhesives

2014-07-01T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Uyiosa Anthony Abusomwan
<p>The remarkable attachment system of geckos has inspired the development of dry microfiber adhesives through the last two decades. Some of the notable characteristics of gecko-inspired fibrillar adhesives include: strong, directional, and controllable adhesion to smooth and rough surfaces in air, vacuum, and under water; ability to maintain strong adhesion during repeated use; anti-fouling and self-cleaning after contamination. Given these outstanding qualities, fibrillar adhesives promise an extensive range of use in industrial, robotic, manufacturing, medical, and consumer products. Significant advancements have been made in the design of geckoinspired microfiber adhesives with the characteristic properties listed above, with the exception of the anti-fouling and self-cleaning features. The self-cleaning mechanism of the gecko’s adhesion system plays an important role to its ability to remain sticky in various environments. Similarly, enabling self-cleaning capability for synthetic microfiber adhesives will lead to robust performance in various areas of application. Presently, the practical use of fibrillar adhesives is restricted mainly to clean environments, where they are free from contaminants. The goal of this thesis is to conduct a detailed study of the mechanisms and mechanics of contact-based self-cleaning of gecko-inspired microfiber adhesives. This work focuses on contact self-cleaning mechanisms, as a more practical approach to cleaning. Previous studies on the cleaning of microfiber adhesives have mostly focused on mechanisms that involve complete removal of the contaminants from the adhesive. In this thesis, a second cleaning process is proposed whereby particles are removed from the tip of the microfibers and embedded between adjacent microfibers or in grooves patterned onto the adhesive, where they are no longer detrimental to the performance of the adhesive. In this work, a model of adhesion for microfiber adhesives that take the deformation of the backing layer under individual microfiber is developed. The dependence of adhesion of microfiber adhesives on the rate of unloading is also modeled and verified using experiments. The models of adhesion presented are later used to study the mechanics of contact self-cleaning of microfiber adhesives. Three major categories of self-cleaning are identified as wet self-cleaning, dynamic self-cleaning, and contact self-cleaning. A total of seven self-cleaning mechanisms that are associated with these categories are also presented and discussed. Results from the self-cleaning model and experiments show that shear loading plays an important role in self-cleaning. The underlying mechanism of contact self-cleaning due to normal and shear loading for spherical contaminants is found to be the particle rolling between the adhesive and a contacted substrate. Results from the model and experiments also show that small microfiber tips (much less than the size of the contaminants) are favorable for self-cleaning. On the other hand, large microfiber tips (much larger than the size of the contaminants) are favorable for anti-fouling of the microfiber adhesive. Results from this work suggests that the sub-micrometer size of the gecko’s adhesive fibers and the lamellae under the gecko toes contribute to its outstanding self-cleaning performance. The results presented in this thesis can be implemented in the design of microfiber adhesives with robust adhesion, self-cleaning and anti-fouling characteristic, for use in numerous applications and in various environments.</p>