I once took solace in the fact that if robots ever did manage to wrest control from us humans, we could just whack a few walls around them and all would be well, as robots with obstacle-scaling abilities are far and few between. Time to add this small (but I'm sure deadly) critter to the list of ones that can climb and potentially drain me of my electrical energy.
We're all doomed, I know, thanks to a team at the Simon Fraser University in Canada, British Columbia. While the physical design of the Tailless Timing Belt Climbing Platform (known by friends as the TBCP-11) is nifty, allowing it to move in and around corners and, obviously, over stuff, it's the polydimethylsiloxane, or PDMS, pads on this guy's caterpillar tracks that allow it to stick to surfaces that would otherwise be unassailable.
The pads are tiny — 17x10 micrometres — but as demonstrated by the video, have enough adhesive strength to keep the TBCP-11 aloft. There's no glue or Blu-Tack involved — they make use of Van der Waals forces for staying power. The university's Jeff Krahn explains:
The adhesives are composed of an array of micro-scale fibres which look similar to flat-topped mushroom caps. This design allows the fibres to conform to relatively rough surfaces, as is important for Van der Waals forces.
Wall climbing is just the start. Before we know it, they'll be taking human form and talking about C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.