Bioinspired multi-scale adaptive suction on complex dry surfaces enhanced by regulated water secretion

Tianqi Yue, Weiyong Si, Alexander G Keller, Chenguang Yang, Hermes Bloomfield-Gadêlha, Jonathan M Rossiter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Suction is a highly evolved biological adhesion strategy for soft-body organisms to achieve strong grasping on various objects. Biological suckers can adaptively attach to dry complex surfaces such as rocks and shells, which are extremely challenging for current artificial suction cups. Although the adaptive suction of biological suckers is believed to be the result of their soft body’s mechanical deformation, some studies imply that in-sucker mucus secretion may be another critical factor in helping attach to complex surfaces, thanks to its high viscosity. Inspired by the combined action of biological suckers’ soft bodies and mucus secretion, we propose a multi-scale suction mechanism which successfully achieves strong adaptive suction on dry complex surfaces which are both highly curved and rough, such as a stone. The proposed multi-scale suction mechanism is an organic combination of mechanical conformation and regulated water seal. Multi-layer soft materials first generate a rough mechanical conformation to the substrate, reducing leaking apertures to micrometres (~10 µm). The remaining micron-sized apertures are then sealed by regulated water secretion from an artificial fluidic system based on the physical model, thereby the suction cup achieves long suction longevity on complex surfaces but minimal overflow. We discuss its physical principles and demonstrate its practical application as a robotic gripper on a wide range of complex dry surfaces. We believe the presented multi-scale adaptive suction mechanism is a powerful new adaptive suction strategy which may be instrumental in the development of versatile soft adhesion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e2314359121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
Early online date1 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2024


  • soft robotics
  • suction
  • biomimetics


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