Chemical engineers at Cornell have created a small device that may one day turn troops into real life spider-men. The device would cradle in the palm of the hand, allowing troops to scale walls. It uses an adhesive inspired by the Floridian leaf beetle, an insect that "can adhere to leaves with power 100 times stronger than its own body weight".
Via Wired's Danger Room,
"The gadget consists of a three-layered plate powered by a common 9-volt battery. The electric field pumps water through each layer, causing droplets to pop through tiny holes in the top layer. Each water droplet yields minimal force, but when thousands of them work together, they create enough surface tension for a square-inch device to hold up more than 15 pounds. The smaller the device, and the more holes, the stronger the adhesion forces.
...Paul Steen, lead researcher on the project, envisions shoes or gloves that can bear loads while they stick to and release from walls. Estimates that extrapolate from the research paper conclude that a 3-by-5-inch plate on the sole of a shoe could support a fully grown 225-pound man.
Unlike gecko-inspired wall walkers, which couldn't scale slippery surfaces, the device can handle water and adhere to 'wood, brick, linoleum, plastics, metals and other surfaces of various roughness.' It also offers instant release, by reversing the electrical charge, so that a load (or a person) can stick and release easily..."