Ford to boost recycling by mimicking gecko 'stickiness'
American car company Ford has announced plans to mimic the sticky toe pads of geckos to help it boost the recyclability of its car parts.
A new pilot aims to tackle a key problem faced by carmakers: using glue to adhere foams to plastics and metals can make disassembling parts for recycling nearly impossible.
To unlock the secrets of the gecko’s pads, which can reportedly support up to 132 kilograms, Ford is teaming up with Procter & Gamble and the Biomimicry Institute to research the creature.
“The gecko could inspire a host of adhesive innovations for global applications at Ford,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader for plastics and sustainability research.
“Solving this problem could provide cost savings and certainly an environmental savings. It means we could increase the recycling of more foam and plastics, and further reduce our environmental footprint.”
As part of the project, Ford recently hosted a forum at its Dearborn campus alongside its partners, where 200 designers and researchers were taught about biomimicry and how to apply it to their work.
Taking inspiration from nature is not new. The famous Japanese bullet train was inspired by the kingfisher, Velcro took its cues from a burr, and improved medical needles were developed based on the mosquito.
Ford’s sustainable development spokesperson Carol Kordich said: “As we look to further our commitment to reducing our environmental footprint, taking a holistic, biomimetic approach makes sense because nature has efficiencies in design and uses minimal resources, nature is the ultimate guide.”
The project follows a flurry of sustainability commitments from international carmakers in the wake of the VW emissions scandal.
Last week, Ford announced that energy efficiency upgrades in its European factories would soon be saving enough energy to run the city of Oxford.
Likewise Toyota unveiled a series of environmental pledges, including a plan to cut emissions from its vehicles and products by 90% by 2050.
Last week Volvo also announced a comprehensive electrification strategy which will see plug-in hybrids introduced across its entire range and a fully electric car on sale by 2019.