Octopus’ Powerful Suction Cups Stick to Anything!


Normal rubber suction cups can only stick to smooth, flat surfaces, but the suction cups on an octopus’ legs are able to attach to all sorts of things, like the rough surface of a rock or a fish’s body. For a suction cup to stick to a surface, the circumference of the cup needs to form a seal with that surface. The small bumps on rocks will result in small gaps between the rock and a rubber suction cup, preventing the formation of the necessary seal. However, the octopus’ suction cups are completely covered in small hairs about 3 microns across. These tiny hairs are able to change shape and position to perfectly align with the dips and bumps in the surface, so they can fit snuggly without any gap around the edge.

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A superior suction cup that can freely be attached to and removed from any surface could be modeled on the octopus’ suction cup. These could be used to hang decorations and other items from bumpy or rough surfaces like wood and concrete walls. Such suction cups could also be used in disaster relief efforts to allow rescue workers to scale rocks and buildings. They could also be attached to the legs of robots, allowing them to freely climb around.

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