At Akron Ascent Innovations (AAI), we are interested in the future of adhesives.  We were founded in 2012 with the mission of developing a revolutionary dry adhesive that we have affectionately named A’Qat™ (pronounced “A Cat”).  This material belongs to a new class of super-adhesives called "dry adhesives" that are inspired by nature's greatest crawler, the gecko.  The advantage of dry adhesives is that they can be designed to be extremely strong in one direction (a thumbnail size piece of A’Qat™ can hold over 100 pounds), but can still be easily removed, repositioned, and reused, all without damaging your surface.

 
 
Scanning electron microscope image of AAI's electrospun nanofibrous dry adhesive.

Scanning electron microscope image of AAI's electrospun nanofibrous dry adhesive.

Dry Adhesives

Dry adhesives are a new class of materials that provide a strong interface using weak forces.  The key is that the weak inter-molecular forces, called van der Waals (vdW) forces, are enhanced by finely structuring the material surface.  This method of “contact splitting” is widely used in the animal kingdom, including beetles and geckos.  Dry adhesive technology has been extensively researched over the past decade and a number of remarkable materials have been developed with unique properties that are not possible with conventional adhesives.  AAI is pioneering a new method to produce dry adhesives and aims to be the first company to bring dry adhesives out of the laboratory for real world, large scale applications.

 
AAI's Ali Blandon inspecting a small-scale electrospinner in the lab at the Akron Accelerator.

AAI's Ali Blandon inspecting a small-scale electrospinner in the lab at the Akron Accelerator.

Electrospinning

AAI is the first company to use electrospinning to produce dry adhesives, which offers the potential for solvent-free, environmentally friendly adhesives that are strong when you need them, but can be easily removed from surfaces without leaving behind a residue or causing damage.  Electrospinning is a versatile technique to fabricate nanofibers with finely controlled nanostructures that are useful for a range of properties, including adhesives.  Most importantly, electrospinning offers a scalable route to control these structures with a resolution that can typically only be achieved with much more time consuming, batch processes such as lithography.

 
Demonstration showing AAI's dry adhesive supporting a load of 60 pounds with only 0.5 square inch contact area.

Demonstration showing AAI's dry adhesive supporting a load of 60 pounds with only 0.5 square inch contact area.

Performance

AAI’s A’Qat™ is not your conventional adhesive that can only adhere to a single surface and is good for a few applications.  Dry adhesives are remarkably robust and when incorporated as part of a designed adhesive system, can not only displace materials in existing materials, but will open up new frontiers in engineering design that are currently limited by the lack of available materials.

Internal testing of AAI's materials has shown shear strength in excess of 120 pounds per square inch on smooth steel and glass, while maintaining near-zero peel.  The adhesives also show excellent shear strength on rough surfaces, including painted drywall, and a number of polymer surfaces, which often present challenges due to their lower surface energy.