Inventor Spotlight - Metin Sitti
Metin Sitti is a Professor in the Mechnical Engineering Department and Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. This prolific inventor is developing geck foot-hairs inspired micro-fiber structures as new repeatable adhesives for a wide range of applications.
Dr. Sitti's interest in geckos began when he was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. He worked with a team, which included two biologists, to gain a better understanding of the climbing ability of geckos. One of the biologists came up with the idea of using micro/nanoscale gecko foot-hairs as adhesives on a trip to Thailand. The idea of the foot-hairs of this tropical lizard traveled with Dr. Sitti when he accepted a faculty position at CMU, where he continued his research on geckos.
At CMU, Dr. Sitti's research focuses on design and manufacturing of synthetic gecko foot-hairs. His main motivation is to take the basic research that is conducted in the lab and transform it into a real world product that can be useful for society. His expertise in robotics and micro/nanoscale mechanics helped him to develop the synthetic fiber structures and apply them to real world problems.
Dr. Sitti earned his undergraduate degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and Physics from Bogazici University in Turkey, and his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tokyo. Following post-doctoral work at the University of California at Berkeley, he came to CMU in 2002 and began work on the design and manufacturing of synthetic gecko foot-hairs and he patented this technology at CMU, which forms the basis of his spin-off, nanoGriptech. His company was formed in 2009 and was awarded Phase I SBIR and STTR grants from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense, along with funding from the PA Nanomaterials Commercialization Center, with more funding coming.
nanoGriptech has R&D facilities to design, prototype, and evaluate various fiber adhesive designs. The company focuses on three main applications: sports, robotics, and safety. In the sports arena, a few companies have approached nanoGriptech to help them develop new clothing closures. The unique repeatable polymer is flexible material, which can provide design freedom and lower costs than competing materials such as VelcroTM. Another unique sports application is in gloves where his polymer fiber adhesives can enhance gripping of climbing or receiver gloves.
In robotics, the fiber adhesives can be used as robust attachment materials for new climbing robots, whose applications range from inspection and monitoring of wind turbines, bridges, buildings, etc. to home applications.
In terms of safety, the adhesives can be used to stick onto skin, such as for protective facemasks for the military and chemical industries. The use of the material in facemasks could provide greater safety, security, and comfort, which is important for those in combat and in other hazardous environments.
There are many more applications, such as masks for those with sleep apnea, bandages, packaging, pick-and-place assembly, and space adhesives.
Dr. Sitti's future goal includes developing a generic fiber adhesive to stick to almost any smooth and slightly rough surfaces as in the case of geckos.