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Tuning Micropillar Tapering for Optimal Friction Performance of Thermoplastic Gecko-Inspired Adhesive

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journal contribution
posted on 14.05.2014, 00:00 by Yongkwan Kim, Yunsie Chung, Angela Tsao, Roya Maboudian
We present a fabrication method and friction testing of a gecko-inspired thermoplastic micropillar array with control over the tapering angle of the pillar sidewall. A combination of deep reactive ion etching of vertical silicon pillars and subsequent maskless chemical etching produces templates with various widths and degrees of taper, which are then replicated with low-density polyethylene. As the silicon pillars on the template are chemically etched in a bath consisting of hydrofluoric acid, nitric acid, and acetic acid (HNA), the pillars are progressively thinned, then shortened. The replicated polyethylene pillar arrays exhibit a corresponding increase in friction as the stiffness is reduced with thinning and then a decrease in friction as the stiffness is again increased. The dilution of the HNA bath in water influences the tapering angle of the silicon pillars. The friction of the replicated pillars is maximized for the taper angle that maximizes the contact area at the tip which in turn is influenced by the stiffness of the tapered pillars. To provide insights on how changes in microscale geometry and contact behavior may affect friction of the pillar array, the pillars are imaged by scanning electron microscopy after friction testing, and the observed deformation behavior from shearing is related to the magnitude of the macroscale friction values. It is shown that the tapering angle critically changes the pillar compliance and the available contact area. Simple finite element modeling calculations are performed to support that the observed deformation is consistent with what is expected from a mechanical analysis. We conclude that friction can be maximized via proper pillar tapering with low stiffness that still maintains enough contact area to ensure high adhesion.