Most Interesting People: Ali Dhinojwala

Polymer scientist, inventor

Age • 42

Why he’s interesting • This University of Akron prof created gecko tape, which sticks four times better than a gecko’s feet. (The traction on a gecko’s foot can hold more than 100 times its weight.)

How does it work? • A combination of plastics and tiny hairs imitate the gecko foot.

What will it be used for? • Anything from the grip on gloves to space applications, and in electronics and robotics

Say what?! • Geckos use van der Waals attraction, an electromagnetic force that occurs when the positive and negative ends of molecules come into close proximity.

Real-life Spider-Man? • While the technology is not quite there yet, humans may one day use variations of the tape to climb walls.

Gross but interesting fact • Most geckos have no eyelids and instead have a transparent membrane, which they lick to clean.

The Geico gecko? • Dhinojwala says he’s much sillier looking than the real thing.

Ferocious ... geckos? • His favorite is a pet crested gecko that his 8-year-old daughter named Tammy. “That little guy is very sticky and doesn’t bite,” he says. “We have one species, the tokay, that holds onto your finger for about 20 minutes.”

The new Velcro • He wants to take his invention from the lab to every desk drawer in America.

But, it’s not there yet • “If you look at the live animal, it does things so beautifully.” He says the tape needs to be stronger and cleaner. “You see geckos fall into dust and then get up and stick right away.”

Top three inventions of all time • 1. airplane, 2. telephone, 3. computer

His real passion • Flying. He wants to take off without boarding a plane. “I want to press a switch and take off for home. I would very much like to see that happen.”
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