Surface contact and design of fibrillar ‘friction pads’ in stick insects (Carausius morosus): mechanisms for large friction coefficients and negligible adhesion
OPEN Journal of the Royal Society, Interface / the Royal Society | 21 Feb 2014
D Labonte, JA Williams and W Federle
Many stick insects and mantophasmids possess tarsal ‘heel pads’ (euplantulae) covered by arrays of conical, micrometre-sized hairs (acanthae). These pads are used mainly under compression; they respond to load with increasing shear resistance, and show negligible adhesion. Reflected-light microscopy in stick insects (Carausius morosus) revealed that the contact area of ‘heel pads’ changes with normal load on three hierarchical levels. First, loading brought larger areas of the convex pads into contact. Second, loading increased the density of acanthae in contact. Third, higher loads changed the shape of individual hair contacts gradually from circular (tip contact) to elongated (side contact). The resulting increase in real contact area can explain the load dependence of friction, indicating a constant shear stress between acanthae and substrate. As the euplantula contact area is negligible for small loads (similar to hard materials), but increases sharply with load (resembling soft materials), these pads show high friction coefficients despite little adhesion. This property appears essential for the pads' use in locomotion. Several morphological characteristics of hairy friction pads are in apparent contrast to hairy pads used for adhesion, highlighting key adaptations for both pad types. Our results are relevant for the design of fibrillar structures with high friction coefficients but small adhesion.
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