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Japanese art of paper cutting inspires strong, removable adhesive

Carefully designed cuts in tape make it stick 10 times as strongly yet peel off easily when needed

by Prachi Patel, special to C&EN
February 26, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 9

Photo of a piece of blue tape with rows of rectangular cuts being peeled off a shiny black surface.
Credit: Michael D. Bartlett
Carefully sized rectangular cuts increase the adhesion of this 46-mm-wide polydimethylsiloxane strip by 10 times when pulled along its length.

Borrowing from the Japanese paper-cutting art of kirigami, researchers have made specially cut tape that is 10 times as sticky as uncut tape but is also easy to pull free and reuse (ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2018, DOI: 10.1021/acsami.7b18594). Michael D. Bartlett and colleagues at Iowa State University found that cleverly designed cuts in a clingy film make it stick strongly but release easily when it’s pulled in a specific direction. The researchers start with tape made of 0.75-mm-thick polyethylene sandwiched between flexible polydimethylsiloxane sheets. Then they laser-cut a simple pattern of rectangles along the length of the tape. By experimenting with the spacing and dimensions of the cuts, the researchers fine-tuned the tape’s reversible stickiness. When mounted on a volunteer’s arm, the tape takes 10 times as much force to detach as a plain, uncut tape when tugged along its length. But when peeled across its width, it lifts off easily. The reversible adhesive could be used to make wall-climbing robots; wearable, tattoolike sensors; and easy-to-remove bandages, the researchers say.


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