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Sticky lizard feet to advance car recycling?

United States – Car producer Ford Motor Company has partnered up with Procter & Gamble for a unique project aimed at boosting the recyclability of its vehicles. The source of inspiration is mother nature herself, namely the brightly-coloured gecko lizard.

Ford researchers have been struggling to find a glue-free manufacturing method for the last couple of years. Taking out this ingredient would notably improve high quality disassembly and materials recovery at end-of-life stage. Surprisingly, the research efforts have led to the gecko due to its impressive ability to stick to most surfaces without liquids or surface tension.

The reptile’s so-called ‘superpower’ resides in its toe pads and allows the creature to swiftly stick and release itself as it moves along objects – without leaving any residue. Ford researchers also note that, at adult weight, the lizard of just 2.5 ounces (70 grams) is capable of supporting over 290 pounds (130kg).

As this work is in line with biomimetic innovation, Ford recently met up with 200 plus experts at the Biomimicry Institute, a non-profit studying nature to develop sustainable solutions to modern-day challenges.

‘Solving this particular problem could provide cost savings and certainly an environmental savings,’ comments Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader for plastics and sustainability research. ‘It means we could increase the recycling of more foam and plastics, and further reduce our environmental footprint.’

The gecko may also inspire fabric technologies that could transform the cabin of Ford vehicles, hints Ford’s sustainable textiles specialist Carol Kordich. ‘Nature is the ultimate guide,’ she notes, adding that its efficiency in design ‘uses minimal resources’.

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