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Gecko toe pads

Ford Looks to Lizards to Increase Recyclability, Improve Adhesives

Gecko toe padsFord is looking to create adhesives inspired by the gecko.

The automaker will also work with Procter & Gamble, sharing research findings as both companies look to biomimicry for a host of business solutions.

Ford says a key sustainable challenge in making autoparts is glue used to adhere foams to plastics and metals can make disassembling parts for recycling nearly impossible.

Enter the gecko.

The lizard’s toe pads allow it to stick to most surfaces without liquids or surface tension. The reptile can then easily release itself, leaving no residue. Plus, a typical mature gecko weighing 2.5 ounces is capable of supporting 293 pounds.

The gecko could inspire a host of adhesive innovations for global applications at Ford, says Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader for plastics and sustainability research.

“Solving this problem could provide cost savings and certainly an environmental savings,” said Mielewski. “It means we could increase the recycling of more foam and plastics, and further reduce our environmental footprint.”

Ford recently hosted a forum at its Dearborn campus with participation from Procter & Gamble and The Biomimicry Institute, a nonprofit that promotes looking to nature for sustainable solutions to modern-day challenges. Nearly 200 researchers and designers took part in the day-long session to learn about biomimicry and how to apply it to their work.

Beyond recycling, the Ford design teams have worked for nearly a decade to find nature-inspired technologies, with recent successes in yarn production for seating materials and headliners. Ford is the only automaker to use Unifi’s high-performance Repreve fiber, made from 100 percent recycled materials including plastic bottles, in its vehicles.

 

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